Zeroes

Zeroes was written by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti and first published in 2015. It is a science fiction story follows a group of teenagers who all possess supernatural abilities, thought don’t have much of a grasp on how to use them. The novel forms the first part of a trilogy and is followed by Swarm (2016) and Nexus (2017).

Ethan Cooper – otherwise known as Scam – has a voice inside him that has the ability to give him whatever he wants. Unfortunately, the voice is not one to consider the long-term consequences of its actions. When Ethan wants a lift home, the voice is more than happy to assist him. However, this soon results in the theft of a drug dealer’s money and his inadvertent involvement in a bank heist that goes horribly wrong.

When he is taken into police custody, Ethan quickly learns that the whole series of events has been caught on film. Now, the police want to an explanation as to how he came to know personal details of a bank robber and not even the voice can get him out of this one. Luckily for Ethan, there are others who can. He once belonged to a group of “Zeroes” – teenagers with powers. Trouble is, he burned his bridges with them a year previously when he allowed the voice to reveal their darkest secrets.

Fortunately, Nate Saldana – or Bellwether – has been looking for a reason to get his team back together. Utilising their skills, the teens manage to rescue Ethan but find themselves in more trouble than they could ever have imagined. It’s not just drug dealers and gangsters that are now out to get Scam. He is also being hunted by the daughter of one of the bank robbers – a girl who has a powerful gift of her own…

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The Secret Commonwealth

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:

His Dark Materials:  Northern Lights | The Subtle Knife | The Amber Spyglass | Short Stories

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage

The Secret Commonwealth was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2019. The novel is the second part of The Book of Dust series, set 20 years after the events of La Belle Sauvage and seven years after The Amber Spyglass. The novel tells the continuing story of Lyra Silvertongue – heroine of the critically acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy – and so I would strongly advise that you read all four of the previous novels to have any idea of what is going on.

Lyra Silvertongue is now twenty years old and has a problem. She no longer likes her dæmon. Ever since Lyra began reading the work of two philosophers who deny the existence of dæmons, she and Pantalaimon have been arguing more and more. Lyra feels that Pan is too critical of things that he does not understand, while Pan feels that Lyra has lost the creativity that he admired in her as a child. The rift between them has led to Pan spending more time wandering alone at night. This is how he comes to witness a murder.

Pan is shocked to see two men savagely ambush another, but is drawn into a larger mystery as he and Lyra uncover the missing man’s belongings. The botanical samples and notes that he carried seem innocent enough at first, but as Lyra reads the man’s journal she uncovers an incredible story about a rose with mystical properties and the Blue Hotel – a place were only dæmons can go. When her room is overturned by others who are desperate to find this research, she learns that she has an unexpected friend in her former tutor, Malcolm Polstead – a man who she is connected to in ways she could never have imagined.

When a particularly vicious argument causes Pan to run away, Lyra is convinced that he must have gone in search of the Blue Hotel. Desperate to find him, she sets out on an epic journey across Europe and beyond. However, danger follows in her footsteps. People are naturally fearful of those who do not have dæmons, and villains from Lyra’s past are desperate to get hold of her in order to have their revenge…

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The Bone Houses

The Bone Houses was written by Emily Lloyd-Jones and was first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story with horror elements, focusing on two teenagers who team up in order to stop an undead army. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it. It’s also currently only available to buy as an eBook in the UK, though the hardback is due to be released at the end of the month.

Ryn has struggled to keep her family together following her mother’s death and father’s disappearance. There is not a lot of work for a gravedigger in a village where the dead do not tend to stay buried. The forests beyond the village of Colbren are the domain of the Bone Houses – corpses that have been doomed to wander as the result of a faerie curse. Although the Bone Houses can be very dangerous, they have always been held back by the iron fence that surrounds Colbren. Unfortunately, this does not last.

Ellis has arrived in Colbren for a different reason. The young mapmaker has grown up in the lap of luxury, but has never known his true parents. Using his skills, money and influence, he has made the long journey in the hope of discovering his roots. However, when his arrival coincides with a particularly brutal attack, he finds himself teaming up with Ryn to find a way to stop the Bone Houses.

Their journey takes them deep into the forest and the mountains beyond, tracing the Bone Houses back to their birth place on lands once occupied by a ruthless fae king. Along the way, they also learn more about themselves and discover that their destinies are entwined with the restless dead in ways that they could never have imagined…

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Mossflower

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

For tonight’s review, I think it’s time to take another nostalgic look at one of my childhood favourites. Redwall was an epic series of middle grade fantasy novels that was published between 1986 and 2011. It ran for twenty-one books and the series only ended due to the author’s death. The series focuses on a medieval society of woodland creatures, in which the good creatures are forced to fight against those that would enslave them. For the purpose of this review, I am going to be looking at the second book – Mossflower (1988) – only.

The creatures that live in Mossflower woods have long been oppressed by the wildcat king – Verdauga Greeneyes – who rules over them from the impenetrable fortress of Kotir. While their lives have always been hard, things are about to get worse when Verdauga is poisoned by his ambitious daughter, Tsarmina. The wily wildcat is quick to pin the crime on her brother, sentencing him to a life of imprisonment as she assumes her place as queen. Ruthless and psychotic, her first command is to crush any resistance and bring the creatures of Mossflower to heel.

It is truly fortunate for the woodlanders that Martin the Warrior happens to be passing by. When Tsarmina destroys his cherished sword and throws the mouse into Kotir’s dungeons, he swears that he will have his revenge. It is not long before he befriends Gonff – a light-hearted mouse thief – and through him learns of Corim (the Council of Resistance in Mossflower). When the rebels orchestrate a gaol break, Martin is more than happy to dedicate himself to their cause.

Yet victory will not be easy. Tsarmina has an army of rats, weasels, ferrets and stoats at her disposal, while the woodlanders are scattered and small in number. It will take a great leader in order to be able to unite them all and assure their victory. On learning of the location of the legendary badger lord – Boar the Fighter – Martin sets out with a small band of allies to find him. Yet they must hurry. Corim cannot remain hidden forever and, if Tsarmina finds them first, there will be no hope of victory…

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Soul of the Sword

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

Soul of the Sword was written by Julie Kagawa and first published in 2019. It is the second part of the Shadow of the Fox Trilogy, continuing Yumeko’s quest to deliver a fragment of the legendary Dragon scroll to the Steel Feather Temple. As the novel carries on directly where Shadow of the Fox (2018) left off, you really do need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Although Yumeko and her allies managed to defeat Lady Satomi’s forces, their victory came at a terrible cost. Hakaimono has escaped imprisonment from within Kamigoroshi and has completely taken over Tatsumi. The former demonslayer is now a prisoner in his own body, forced to watch as the monster exacts its bloody revenge on the Kage clan.

Although she is desperate to save Tatsumi, Yumeko does not know where to begin. Hakaimono is too powerful to be expelled by an exorcism and would surely rip apart anyone who tried. Yet a mysterious silver fox appears to her in a dream with a solution. If she can master the dark art of kitsune-tsuki – fox possession – she will be able to drive out Hakaimono from within.

Yet saving Tatsumi is not her biggest priority. Yumeko’s piece of the Dragon scroll still must be delivered to the Steel Feather Temple for safe keeping. The trouble is, no one knows precisely where the temple is hidden. Will Yumeko and her friends be able to uncover its location, or will Genno’s army of yōkai, witches and oni find them first…

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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:

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 | Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

It’s my 500th review. Hooray! It’s taken me a long time to get here but thank-you so much to those who have read my reviews, offered suggestions and even submitted your own novels for my perusal. I’m looking forward to what the next 500 reviews will bring!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was written by J.K. Rowling and first published in 2007. It forms the final part of the main Harry Potter series, following on directly from 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) and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005). The series has since been followed by a number of other additions that further extend the universe, including short-stories, films and even a stage play. Please note that this review is going to contain some pretty major spoilers, as this book is now over ten years old and I expect that most of you are already familiar with it.

For the first time, Harry Potter will not be returning to Hogwarts. Following the death of his mentor, he knows that he needs to honour Dumbledore’s final request. With the help of Ron and Hermione, he must locate and destroy all of Voldemort’s horcruxes. This is the only way to render the Dark Lord mortal and ensure that he can be permanently defeated. Trouble is, Harry has no idea where to start. He does not even know what form two of the horcruxes will take, let alone how to find them.

Harry starts to have further doubts about their quest as he learns disquieting things about Dumbledore’s past. Although famed for his compassion, rumours have emerged about a wild youth filled with dark magic, duels and death. Although Harry had placed his trust in the elderly wizard, Harry now realised that Dumbledore had revealed very little to him and begins to feel resentful. Why should he risk everything, when Dumbledore did so little to prepare him?

Yet, as muggle-born wizards are ostracised from society and people close to Harry are hurt and killed, he realises that Voldemort needs to be stopped. His mission takes him all over the wizarding world – from the halls of the Ministry of Magic to the vaults of Gringotts. However, even Harry does not realise the full severity of his mission. If he wishes to defeat Voldemort, he must be prepared to sacrifice everything…

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Battle of the Beetles

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:

Beetle Boy | Beetle Queen

Battle of the Beetles was written by M.G. Leonard and first published in 2018. It forms the final part of the Battle of the Beetles Trilogy, following Beetle Boy (2016) and Beetle Queen (2017). As the novel carries on directly where previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Hidden in the depths of the Amazon rain forest, Lucretia Cutter has begun her bid for world domination. Her army of beetles is beginning to target crops around the world and slowly the governments are beginning to bow to her wishes. They have no choice – no one knows exactly where she is or how they can possibly stop such a wide-scale and devastating attack. To make worse, Barty Cuttle is known to have gone with her and has become a global scapegoat. Everyone believes him to be the mastermind, making him public enemy number one.

Darkus knows that his father is not a villain and is determined to prove it. Along with his allies – Virginia, Bertolt, Motty and Uncle Max – he begins to plan a way to find Cutter’s hidden biome and stop her before she can unleash any more monsters, or realise her plan to turn the captive Novak into a beetle-human hybrid.

Of course, Darkus will also be helped by his best beetle friends. Baxter and the other survivors of Beetle Mountain want nothing more than to free Cutter’s captive specimens. However, Darkus must be careful. Lucretia Cutter has made the world afraid of beetles, and this means that people may assume that he is in league with her if they learn the existence of his smallest allies…

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Redwall

As it can take me a little while to get my hands on the Goosebumps books for my Vault reviews, I thought that I would also start looking at another series that I absolutely loved as a kid. Please note that, due to the age of the novels, this is going to be another of my retrospective posts. Therefore, there may be spoilers below. You have been warned.

Redwall was an epic series of middle grade fantasy novels written by Brian Jacques. The series ran for twenty-one books which were all published between 1986 and 2011. The novels are set in a world that seems to be exclusively populated by woodland creatures, focusing on the battles that the good creatures fight against vermin that would hurt or enslave them. For the purpose of this review, I am going to be looking at the first novel – Redwall (1986) – only.

It is the Summer of the Late Rose and the peaceful creatures of Redwall Abbey are preparing for a feast. However, all festivities are interrupted as they learn that Cluny the Scourge is approaching. The one-eyed rat leads an army of murderous rats, stoats, ferrets and weasels, and has decided that Redwall would be a perfect castle for his horde.

Although the walls of the Abbey are strong and tall, the mice and other woodland creatures realise that they can’t withstand Cluny’s siege forever. With the help of wise old Methuselah, a young mouse named Matthias begins to research the history of the Abbey’s founder – Martin the Warrior. If they can just find the resting place of Martin’s legendary sword, Matthias knows that they will have the power they need to unite the creatures of Mossflower Woods and defeat Cluny forever.

However, Matthias’s quest will not be easy. The sword has been lost for years and he will have to face warrior sparrows and deadly serpents in order to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Cluny’s army grows more cunning by the day and hatches dozens of devious schemes to breach the walls – or tunnel beneath them…

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The Beasts of Grimheart

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:

Podkin One-Ear | The Gift of Dark Hollow

The Beasts of Grimheart was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2018. It is the third instalment of The Five Realms series, telling the continuing story of Podkin’s battles against the evil Gorm. The novel follows on directly from where Podkin One-Ear (2016) and The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) left off, so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what’s going on.

The Bard’s past has finally caught up with him as he finds himself captured by the Bonedancers. The tribe of assassins have been contracted to kill him due to an offensive story that he once told to the rabbits of Golden Brook. However, Sythica – Mother Superior of the Bonedancers – is merciful. She requests that the Bard tells her the same story. Only then will she decide if it is worthy of death.

The tale that the Bard tells is another one from the childhood of the legendary hero, Podkin. Following their last battle against Scramashank and the Gorm, Dark Hollow has become a safe haven for all rabbits. Yet, it seems that the forest won’t remain safe for long. The Gorm have created a deadly new machine – one with the power to tear up trees – and are coming from them.

Although the rabbits of Dark Hollow have arrows that are capable of destroying Scramashank once and for all, they need a special weapon to fire them. Thus, Podkin leads a small group to the Sparrowfast Warren in search of Soulshot – a bow that never misses its target. However, while on route, they are betrayed by one of their own and Podkin, Paz and Pook find themselves lost in the forest. Will the be able to find the others before the Gorm reach Dark Hollow? Or will they find themselves hunted by the fabled Beast of Grimheart?

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Only Ever Yours

Only Ever Yours was written by Louise O’Neill and first published in 2014. It is a dark dystopian science fiction story which is set in a world were women are genetically engineered to please men. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

freida is an eve who has just entered her sixteenth year. That means that it is finally time for her to graduate and be accepted into one of the three areas of society appropriate for females. frieda has always dreamed of being chosen as a companion – one who will become a wife and bear as many sons as she can to the husband who chooses her. The alternatives are to become either a concubine (one who will please any man who so desires her services) or a chastity (those who are undesirable to all and therefore teach the next generation of eves).

The problem is, freida’s ranking has been slipping. As she struggles with a sleeping disorder, her weight increases above the window that is deemed acceptable and, for the first time in years, she finds that she is not one of the top ten. This is a huge problem for her, as only the most attractive and obedient girls will be lucky enough to become a companion.

While freida works to improve her image and become attractive again, he notices that her friend isabel’s standards are slipping. While she was previously top ranked, isabel’s huge weight gain has completely knocked her off the leader-board. freida desperately wants her friend to see the error of her ways but can she really risk her own image by associating with someone so hideous? With the graduation ceremony only months away, any mistake could cost freida her future…

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