Skyward

Skyward was written by Brandon Sanderson and first published in 2018. It is a science-fiction novel set on a remote planet, where humans are forced to hide underground due to frequent alien attacks. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Ever since their ship crash landed on Detritus, Spensa’s people have been besieged by the Krell. The mysterious aliens frequently attack settlements, preventing them from growing too large or scavenging the materials that fall from the debris field that surrounds the planet. All it would take would be for the Krell to drop one lifebuster bomb in the right place and the human race could be wiped out forever.

The only thing protecting humans from the Krell are the pilots – brave men and women who risk their lives to engage the Krell in fierce aerial battles. It has always been Spensa’s dream to be one of them, but her father’s actions during the Battle of Alta have barred her from this forever. No one wants to give the time of day to the daughter of a coward, let alone allow her to pilot a fighter.

However, when Spensa manages to impress one of the tutors, she is given a chance to prove herself. Her time in training will not be easy due to her family’s reputation, but she is determined to prove Admiral Ironsides wrong by becoming the best pilot of all time. However, it’s not long before Spensa starts to learn the truth about her father. She has always been certain that he was no coward, but the truth about him could be more horrifying. Worse still, it could also affect her ability to fly…

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Goosebumps 1-5

Welcome to my new series of retrospective reviews! In these posts, I’m going to be slowly making my way through R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps series. Not including spin-offs and specials, this middle grade horror series was published between 1992 and 1997 and ran for sixty-two novels. Please note that, due to the age of this series, this post is likely to contain some spoilers. You have been warned. For the purpose of today’s review, I’m going to be looking at the first five books only. I’m also going to be reviewing this series in the order that they were released in the United Kingdom, which should be noted does differ slight from the order that it was originally released in the United States.

In Welcome to Dead House, Amanda and Josh are forced to move when their father inherits a creepy old house. While Amanda is immediately concerned by the horrifying visions that she has in her bedroom, she grows more worried still when she meets the strange children that live in her neighbourhood. They all seem oddly friendly and keen for her to stay with them. Forever.

In Say Cheese and Die!, Greg and his friends uncover a strange Polaroid camera when poking around an abandoned house. While he initially thinks it is broken, Greg soon discovers that the photos its takes might show the future. Yet, as the pictures begin to grow more sinister, Greg begins to grow concerned that the camera is actually evil. What if it is causing bad things to happen, rather than predicting them?

In Stay Out Of the Basement, Margaret and Casey begin to grow worried about their father when he loses his job and begins working for their basement. Suddenly, he has no time for them and forbids them from going near the odd plants that he is growing. Margaret grows more worried still when she notices that her father is eating plant food and starting to physically change. Just what are his experiments, and does he have plans for them?

In The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Gabe is excited to be spending Christmas with his archaeologist uncle, even if it means that he has to withstand his annoying cousin Sari. After all, how many kids get to explore hidden chambers deep within the Great Pyramid? However, things take a sinister turn when one of his uncle’s assistants tries to kidnap him. As he flees, he soon finds himself lost deep within the pyramid. It is here that he learns a gruesome secret, yet he might not live to tell the tale.

In Monster Blood, Evan is annoyed that he has to stay with his creepy Great-Aunt Kathryn. Not only is she old, but she’s also totally deaf. However, while exploring a local toy shop, he discovers something that seems more fun – a can of goo that seems to possess weird properties. However, when his dog eats some of the Monster Blood and starts to grow, Evan realises that something is weird about the ooze. Worse still, it seems to be growing and developing a mind of its own…

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Ice Kingdom

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:

Ice Massacre | Ice Crypt

Ice Kingdom was written by Tiana Warner and first published in 2017. It is the final instalment of the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy, continuing the story of two girls’ mission to liberate the ocean from a tyrannical king. The novel carries on directly from where the previous instalments – Ice Massacre (2014) and Ice Crypt (2016) left off, so you really have to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Although Meela and Lysi managed to escape with their lives, the Battle of Eriana Kwai had disastrous consequences. King Adaro now has control of Sisiutl – the invulnerable two-headed serpent – and with it the power to wage war on both land and sea. Although Meela has finally become a mermaid, there is little time for her to enjoy her new life with Lysi. The two of them now must find a way to save the world.

However, the girls struggle to agree on a course of action. While Meela wants to take the fight straight to Adaro, Lysi believes that their best chance would be to make allies of Queen Medusa of the Atlantic, and to use her armies to liberate Utopia. While Lysi tries to convince Meela to abandon her thoughts of vengeance, the mermaids slip further into civil war as Adaro sends more and more prisoners to die in his labour camps.

Yet Adaro isn’t the only threat to the oceans. Spurred by Sisiutl’s attacks, the American military has finally been spurred to action. When their early strikes against the giant monster end in disaster, they have no choice but to deploy more powerful weapons. It soon becomes clear that Meela and Lysi must find a way to make peace between the mermaids and humans before the two races wipe each other out…

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The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away

The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away was written by Ronald L Smith and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade science fiction story which focuses on a young boy who is terrified of aliens. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Simon is obsessed with aliens, but not in a good way. He’s put a lot of time into researching the Greys – the ones that abduct people and take them away. His beliefs have driven his tough, military man father to despair. He just wants Simon to be manly and athletic like his older brother. He has no time for Simon’s flights of fancy and childish fears.

Then, one fateful night, Simon has a weird experience in the woods. All he remembers is a bright light and a looming owl before he blacked out. When he awakes, he discovers an odd scar on his belly and realises the truth. He has been taken by the Greys and now they have put an implant inside him. That means that they are likely to come back.

As Simon’s behaviour grows more erratic, his relationship with his father gets worse and worse. His parents will not believe him about the aliens and are desperate for him to get psychological help. Luckily for Simon, he manages to get in touch with MUFON – a group of people who hold the same beliefs as him. But did Simon really have a close encounter and, if so, what is it that the aliens want?

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The Shield of Kuromori

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

The Shield of Kuromori was written by Jason Rohan and first published in 2015. It forms the second part of the The Sword of Kuromori trilogy and tells the continuing adventures of Kenny Blackwood as he defends Japan from evil oni. The novel is preceded by The Sword of Kuromori (2014) and followed by The Stone of Kuromori (2016). Because of this, I would certainly recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Although Kenny managed to use his newfound powers to prevent the dragon Namazu from destroying America, his work is far from done. As he and Kiyomi patrol the streets of Tokyo in search of troublesome yōkai, they come across something completely unexpected. A band of powerful oni have broken into an observatory and seem to be trying to steal a telescope. Oni are normally beings of hatred and violence. It seems unthinkable that anyone should be able to convince them to work as a team.

Yet, as strange as the oni are behaving, it is not Kenny’s biggest concern. Ever since he brought Kiyomi back from the dead, she has been acting strangely. Although she has always been fiery, she has never been so aggressive before and certainly never openly disobeyed her father in order to pick fights with yōkai. It’s not long before Kenny realises that it’s all his fault. Because he played with fate and transgressed the laws of nature, Kiyomi is starting to change. It will not be long before she loses her humanity altogether.

Kenny has one chance to save her but it requires making deal with a god who is known for being untrustworthy. All the god wants in return are two legendary treasures – a mirror and a stone – but the whereabouts of these are unknown. With time running out, Kenny must decide where his loyalties lie. Does he abandon his friend to find out what the oni are up to, or save Kiyomi and risk the lives of everyone in Japan?

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The Extinction Trials: Rebel

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:

The Extinction Trials | The Extinction Trials: Exile

The Extinction Trials: Rebel was written by S.M Wilson and first published in 2019. It tells the continuing story of Stormchaser and Lincoln, as humans are forced to populate Piloria for the first time. The novel forms the final part of The Extinction Trials trilogy, following on shortly after The Extinction Trials (2018) and The Extinction Trials: Exile (2018) left off. Because of this, I would recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

For six months, Stormchaser and Reban have been forced to work together to survive in the jungles of Piloria. Although the viruses seem to have wiped out the tyrannosaurs and pterodactyls, it has had the reverse effect on the raptors. These creatures seem to be growing more powerful by the day – larger, faster and dangerously intelligent. It takes all of Storm and Reban’s skill to stay one step ahead of the deadly predators.

Meanwhile on Earthsia, Lincoln’s kindness has had terrible consequences. The plants that he brought back from Piloria have saved everyone from the blistering plague. However, it soon becomes clear that this disease was the only thing controlling the population. Now, there are too many mouths to feed and not even the Stipulators have the power to quell the riots.

Loading up the last two boats with a collection of politicians and labourers, the humans have no choice but to take their chances on Piloria. However, most people are completely unprepared for life on the dinosaur continent. It will take all of Storm and Lincoln’s skills to educate the frightened survivors on how to live in the savage lands. However, Silas still struggles to keep his position of power. The former Chief Stipulator has other ideas about how they must survive, ones that could have fatal consequences…

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Who In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Who In The World is Carmen Sandiego was first published in 2019. It is an adaption of the first couple of episodes of the new Carmen Sandiego Netflix series, written by Rebecca Tinker and based on the screenplay by Duane Capizzi. The story finally gives the origins of the famous art thief, detailing her early training and how she first came to learn about the criminal organisation known as VILE. It does not really require you to know anything about the character to fully appreciate it.

Carmen Sandiego is one of the most wanted criminals in the world and Interpol Agent Chase Devineaux is determined to be the one to catch her. Unlike most art thieves, she seems to delight in taunting the authorities. She makes no effort to remain hidden as she wears a scarlet fedora and trench coat, yet always escapes with her prize. However, this time Carmen could have bitten off more than she can chew. While trying to steal the priceless Eye of Vishnu, she sees an object that she thought was lost forever and stumbles across an old foe.

This discovery causes Carmen to recall her past – a time when she was an orphan known as Black Sheep. Raised by faculty of a mysterious school, she soon learns that her “parents” are really a cabal of master thieves. Going under the name of VILE – Valuable Imports, Lavish Exports – they take in only the most promising students each year and mould them into the criminal elite. Carmen is determined to join their ranks and, despite only being a child, is finally granted a chance to become their youngest ever member.

Earning a place within in VILE will not be easy as one of her teachers – the ninja Shadowsan – seems to be determined that she will fail. However, Carmen slowly learns that she is walking the wrong path. VILE hides many terrible secrets, even from its students. With the help of a young hacker called Player, she soon discovers that there are far better uses for her talents.

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Firestarter

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:

Timekeeper | Chainbreaker

Firestarter was written by Tara Sim and first published in 2019. It tells the continuing story of the forbidden relationship between Danny and Colton – a human and a clock spirit – in a world where clock towers control the flow of time. The novel forms the final part of the Timekeeper trilogy and follows on directly where Timekeeper (2016) and Chainbreaker (2018) left off. Because of this, I would recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

The crew of the Prometheus are dedicated to their mission to destroy the clock towers and restore the natural flow of time and leave their new captives no choice but to help them. Yet Danny in particular is reluctant. Even though the leader of the rebels – Zavier – has Colton, Danny finds it hard to believe that these acts of terrorism are the only answer. Destroying the clock towers also destroys the spirits that protect them. What will happen to his love if Zavier’s plan comes to fruition?

Yet the rebels are not unopposed. A new faction known as the Builders have emerged and they are intent on restoring the destroyed towers. When it becomes clear that these new towers are not failing as the one in Maldon did, Danny and Colton know that one thing is true. Whoever leads the Builders has also learned the grisly secret on which each clock tower is built.

As Zavier reveals the true depth of his plans, and the motivation behind them, Danny begins to realise that perhaps even villains can have noble reasons. Things do not seem to be as clear cut as he first thought and he is made to question if the world would be better without the clock towers. Yet, as he begins to understand his captor better, he is also forced to question his relationship with Colton. Is there a way to save the clock spirit or will he be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the world?

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The Thief

The Thief was written by Megan Whalen Turner and first published in 1996. It is a high fantasy story that focuses on a small group of men on a quest to find an object with mystical powers. The novel forms the first part of The Queen’s Thief series and is followed by The Queen of Attolia (2000), The King of Attolia (2006), A Conspiracy of Kings (2010) and Thick as Thieves (2017). A sixth instalment – Return of the Thief – is expected to be released later this year.

Determined to prove himself as a master thief, Gen stole the seal of the King of Sounis. Unfortunately, he then had the foolishness to brag about his victory to everyone in the local inn and soon found himself a prisoner in the inescapable royal gaol. It seems as though he has been left there to rot, until the day when the magus – advisor to the King – comes to him with a proposition.

The magus has discovered the location of an ancient artefact – one with the power to crown a new ruler of the neighbouring kingdom of Eddis. Unfortunately, all parties who have gone to retrieve it have never returned. The magus needs the skills of a thief and is willing to offer Gen his freedom in return. However, if Gen refuses, the magus has the power to ensure that he will never see the light of day again.

With the protection of a skilled soldier called Pol, and the magus’s two apprentices – Sophos and Ambiades – the party sets off on a long journey across three nations, each on the edge of war with each other. Their success will determine who will rule over these countries for centuries to come. However, if any of the other rulers catch wind of what the magus has planned, they will stop at nothing to destroy them.

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Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. You can read my review of this [here].

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow was written by Jessica Townsend and first published in 2018. It forms the second part of the Nevermoor series and tells the continuing story of Morrigan Crow – a young girl with a frightening power. As the novel carries on shortly after its prequel – Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (2017) – left off, I would strong advise reading the stories in order to fully appreciate them.

Morrigan Crow has earned her place in the Wunderous Society but has not earned the trust of her fellow students. She had hoped to gain an education, learn more about her abilities as a Wundersmith and find a family in her Unit. Unfortunately, she quickly finds that only Cadence and Hawthorne want anything to do with her. Everyone is too scared of what she is capable of – and that includes her teachers. Everyone that knows about Morrigan’s powers is ordered to never speak of it, and told that the entire Unit will be expelled if anyone fails to keep this secret.

While her classmates are allowed to take all kinds of wonderful classes, Morrigan is forced to spend every day with Professor Onstald – an elderly tortoisewun who teaches her about every atrocity that a Wundersmith has ever committed. Although Jupiter assures her that her powers do not make her a villain, Morrigan is starting to have her doubts. After all, Professor Onstald is an expert in Wundersmith history and he is convinced that they always turn evil.

Things get worse still for Morrigan when her Unit starts to receive sinister notes, threatening to reveal Morrigan’s secret unless her classmates do certain embarrassing, exhausting and dangerous things. This quickly makes them hate her even more, and this resentment in turn causes Morrigan’s powers to become unpredictable. When people start to disappear, the Society are quick to turn on the Wundersmith in their midst. Will Morrigan be able to rein in her powers and clear her name? Or will she be forced to rely on the guidance of an old enemy…

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