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…

More

Advertisements

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…

More

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.

More

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.

More

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…

More

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club was written by Alex Bell and is due for release this November. It is a middle grade fantasy story which focuses on team of brave explorers on an expedition to discover the coldest place on the planet. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Stella Starflake Pearl knows that she is destined to become a great explorer. She has to be, as only explorers are given three names. She longs to join the prestigious Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, however knows that they are old fashioned and do not allow girls on their expeditions. However, her adoptive father, Felix, has never been one for rules. He convinces the head of the club to allow Stella to join them on one expedition to give her a chance to prove her worth.

As Stella sets out, she is quick to make acquaintances with the other kids on the expedition – wolf whisperer Shay, Beanie the half-elf and bad-tempered magician Ethan. Yet their mission to find the coldest part of the Icelands quickly goes awry. When an accident separates the four youths from their parents, they are forced to band together to survive in the frozen wastes and complete their quest.

Danger and adventure lie between Stella’s team and their goal. Along their journey they are forced to deal with frostbite, savage cabbages and, most terrifying of all, the huge and ferocious yeti. Stella is determined to prove that she can be an explorer. Yet, as she travels deeper into the Icelands, she also begins to learn more about where she came from. Stella has always known that she is different from other girls, but the truth of her origins is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined…

More

Contagion

Contagion was written by Teri Terry and first published in 2017. It is a science fiction thriller that focuses on two teenagers as they investigate a deadly disease that is sweeping across the United Kingdom. The book forms the first part of the Dark Matter series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Callie barely remembers anything about her life before she was taken to the laboratory. She doesn’t remember her parents or where she lived. The pain that the mysterious Dr 1 inflicted on her has erased everything but her name. They told her that she was sick and they were trying to help her, yet their “cure” proved to be fatal.

Yet Callie didn’t die. At least, not entirely. Freed from her physical form, she drifts around the complex. She witnesses the first outbreak of the disease and sees it spread amongst the scientists and nurses, rapidly causing organ failure and death. Yet she can’t seem to find Dr 1 anywhere and so she sets out on a mission to locate him and learn the truth of who she once was.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a teenage girl called Shay meets with Callie’s older brother, Kai. Shay is pretty sure that she witnessed the disappearance of Callie the previous summer, remembering seeing the little girl being taken away by two men in a black car. She offers to help Kai investigate her disappearance, but they have made little headway before the disease begins to spread. Soon, Scottish cities begin to go into lock-down and the death count steadily rises. Yet Shay and Kai are still determined to discover what happened. However, to do so they will now have to cross quarantine zones and even risk becoming infected themselves…

More

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?

More

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.

More

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones

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

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones was written by Scott Cawthorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley and first published in 2017. It is the direct sequel to The Silver Eyes (2015) and is loosely based around the hit video game series. The story picks up a year after the events at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, following Charlie as she is once again forced to face the dark events of her past.

Following her near death at the hands of the psychotic Dave Miller, Charlie is doing her best to forget what occurred at Freddy Fazbear’s and get on with her life. She’s accepted a place at college and has decided to learn robotics so as better to understand her father’s creations. She seems to be well on her way to getting her life back on track when the killings start.

Charlie would like nothing more than to delude herself into thinking that there is no connection, but the wounds on the corpse are unmistakable. She knows that they were caused by the springlocks inside one of the animatronics, yet the spacing of the cuts suggests that they were made by a suit far larger than any she has seen before.

When a body is found that looks suspiciously like Charlie, she starts to realise that the robots may be coming for her. It’s up to Charlie and her friends, John and Jessica, to find out why before it’s too late. However, in order to protect Charlie, they may have to seek the help of some old enemies…

More

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 26,508 awesome people have visited this blog

© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All novels reviewed on this site are © to their respective authors.