Finale

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:

Caraval | Legendary

Finale was written by Stephanie Garber and first published in 2019. It is the final instalment of the Caraval Trilogy and tells continuing story of Scarlett and Donatella Dragna, as they fight to find a way to stop the cruel Fates from taking control of the Meridian Empire. As the novel follows on shortly after Caraval (2017) and Legendary (2018), I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

When Legend risked everything to free Tella from a cursed Deck of Destiny, she thought that it meant that he loved her. However, although Legend still regularly visits her in her dreams, she knows that it is not true. Immortals cannot feel love, only obsession, and she knows that she will never be happy unless she severs their relationship.

Similarly, Scarlett is having difficultly deciding who her suitor should be. Although she is passionately in love with Julian, she still wants to give Count Nicholas d’Arcy a fair chance. However, her courtship is interrupted when she stumbles across a horrible scene – one that proves that the Fates have also been released from the deck.

The Fates are powerful and dangerous, taking pleasure in treating humans as toys. However, it is not long before Scarlett and Tella learn that they have a weakness. If they are able to kill the original Fate – The Fallen Star – the rest will lose their immortality. However, the Fallen Star’s one weakness is a closely guarded secret. Will Scarlett and Tella be prepared to risk everything to destroy him, even if doing so risks all chance that they have at future happiness?

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Goosebumps 11-15

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:

1-5 | 6-10

Reader beware, it’s time to take another nostalgic look back at Goosebumps. If you haven’t checked out my previous two posts, this series was written by R.L. Stine and ran for sixty-two books between 1992 and 1997. The novels vary in themes and enjoy-ability but were all horror stories aimed at middle grade readers. For today’s review, I will be taking a look at books 11 to 15 (in the order that they were first released in the United Kingdom). Oh, and this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.

In The Haunted Mask, Carly Beth knows that she is easily scared but is furious that two boys in her class keep using this as a way to publicly embarrass her. When she finds a hideous and terrifying mask, she realises that she finally has a way to turn the tables on them. Trouble is, the mask makes her do horrible things and proves very difficult to take off…

In Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, Jerry is surprised to find an expensive piano in the attic of his new home but this soon turns to horror when he realises that it is haunted. His parents refuse to believe him and instead sign him up to piano lessons with the eccentric Dr Shreek. Although the teacher seems nice enough, he is oddly obsessed with Jerry’s hands. Could their be truth in the rumours that kids sometimes go for lessons at his school and never return?

In Be Careful What You Wish For, Samantha’s life is made miserable by the constant torment that she receives from Judith. However, when a strange woman offers Sam three wishes, she realises that she can use these to finally have her revenge. Yet when her first wish makes Judith seriously ill, Sam realises that perhaps she has gone too far. The woman takes her wishes very literally and so they can have horrible and unexpected consequences…

In The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, Grady is forced to move to a remote corner of Florida due to his parents’ research. Although the swamps around his home seem interesting, he soon learns of a terrifying local legend and supposed sightings of a terrible beast. When Grady’s pet dog, Wolf, is accused of being the beast, he knows that he has to prove his innocence. Yet where does Wolf run off to at night, and what is butchering the local wildlife?

In You Can’t Scare Me!, Eddie and his friends have grown sick of Courtney. The fact that she seems to be utterly fearless only serves to make Eddie look like even more of a wimp than he really is. Every plot that Eddie and his friends’ hatches to scare Courtney seems to backfire and make her look better still. However, Eddie soon comes up with the perfect plan to terrify Courtney with a local legend about the mud monsters of Muddy Creek. Trouble is, the legend might just be true…

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Queenslayer

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:

Spellslinger | Shadowblack | Charmcaster | Soulbinder

Queenslayer was written by Sebastien de Castell and first published in 2019. It is the fifth instalment of the Spellslinger series and tells the story of the continuing adventures of Kellen Argos and his business partner, Reichis the Squirrel Cat. The novel follows on shortly after Spellslinger (2017), Shadowblack (2017), Charmcaster (2018) and Soulbinder (2018) left off, so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

After unwittingly declaring treason against Darome, Kellen finds himself imprisoned and awaiting certain execution. However, as he is brought before the eleven-year-old Queen, he finds that fate has something else in store for him. Ginevra has supposedly inherited the souls of a thousand years of rulers, yet seems to be charmed by Kellen’s card playing. She names Kellen her new Tutor of Cards – a position that puts him above the law. Kellen is slow to realise that this places him in even more danger.

When Ginevra reaches the age of thirteen, she gains the full power of the throne. Sadly, there are some nobles in her court that do not wish for that to happen. Kellen soon realises that there is a delicacy to the proceedings within court. He is not in the Outlands anymore and instead is in a world where words have power and those who speak too loudly often meet with unfortunate accidents.

As Kellen is sent away to deal with a seemingly insignificant crime in a border town, he comes to realise just what a precarious position the queen is in. There are some who think that an eleven-year-old should not hold the throne and are willing to overthrow the entire city if it means ousting her from her position. Yet, as Kellen is approached once again by Shalla with a mission, he soon realises that the one to destroy Ginevra might well be him…

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The Dark Days Deceit

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 Dark Days Club | The Dark Days Pact

The Dark Days Deceit was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2018. It is the final instalment of the Lady Helen Trilogy, following Lady Helen and Lord Carlston as they hunt down the Grand Deceiver and defend the Crown. As the novel follows on directly from where The Dark Days Club (2015) and The Dark Days Pact (2017) left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have the faintest idea of what is going on.

Helen and Carlston have had little chance to test the strength of their new bond but time is running out. Now that they have joined to become the Grand Reclaimer dyad, they know that their counterpart – the Grand Deceiver – will also be growing in power. The problem is, they still do not know the identity of their enemy and only have the vaguest clues to begin their search.

To make it worse, Helen’s wedding to the Duke of Selburn is fast approaching and the Duke is eager for Helen to retire from her Reclaiming duties as soon as they are married. He occupation is clearly dangerous and he makes quite clear that he believes that her place is in the home, bearing him an heir. Although Helen knows that it is her duty to be his wife, she feels torn. Can she really give up her freedom as a Reclaimer and settle down? Worse still, can she really be a faithful wife when she still has strong feelings for Carlston?

When an attempt at harnessing the Grand Reclaimer power goes awry, Lady Helen quickly realises that they have a bigger problem. The magic of the Ligatus that she absorbed during their last battle was never meant to be contained within flesh. Unchecked, it threatens to tear a hole in the fabric of reality and bring instant death to the three who are bound to it by blood – Helen, Carlston and Darby. If Helen does not find a way to reign in its maddening power, there is no way that she will possibly survive to see her wedding day…

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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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Goosebumps 6-10

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

It seems like a good time to take a second look back at R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps series. This collection of middle grade horror stories originally ran for sixty-two novels between 1992 and 1997 and, due to their incredible popularity, many are still in print today. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at novels six to ten only, reflecting the order that they were first released in the United Kingdom. Oh, and this is a retrospective look at the series, so there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

In Let’s Get Invisible, Max makes an amazing discovery in a hidden room within his attic – a mirror with the power to make anyone temporarily invisible. While this seems fun at first, he soon discovers that the object hides a dark secret. Something seems to be within the mirror, drawing him towards the glass, and it’s not long before he starts to have difficulty turning back to normal…

In Night of the Living Dummy, Kris becomes jealous after her sister discovers a ventriloquist dummy in her neighbour’s skip. Lindy names the dummy Slappy and starts to become popular as a local entertainer. However, when Kris gets a puppet of her own, things begin to get sinister. Kris’s dummy starts saying nasty things and everyone blames Kris. After all, a dummy can’t possibly have a mind of its own, can it?

In The Girl who Cried Monster, Lucy is always getting in trouble for telling her brother Randy tall tales about monsters. Due to this, no one will believe her when she does actually see one. Mr Mortman, the local librarian, turns into a horrible monster and eats bugs whenever the library closes. Trouble is, Mr Mortman suspects that Lucy knows his secret. How can Lucy save herself when everyone assumes that she is lying?

In Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Billy is disappointed to find that summer at Camp Nightmoon is not exactly what he expected. The Councillors have really lax health and safety standards, his parents never answer his letters and no one seems to care when kids disappear in the night. As one of Billy’s friends is attacked by a horrible monster, Billy realises that something sinister is going on. Just what secrets is Uncle Al hiding and can he escape before it is too late?

In The Ghost Next Door, Hannah’s boring summer holiday livens up when she meets her new neighbour. Danny is a little strange but seems nice enough. However, it’s not long before Hannah starts to notice just how pale he is – and how he has a habit of just vanishing into thin air. It’s obvious that Danny is far from normal, but could it be that he’s really a ghost? And what connection does he have to the mysterious shadowy figure that Hannah has seen around the town?

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Hollow City

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Hollow City was written by Ransom Riggs and first published in 2014. It forms the second part of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series and follows Jacob and his friends as they travel across blitz-torn England. The novel is preceded by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011) and followed by Library of Souls (2015) and Map of Days (2018). I would strongly recommend reading these novels in sequence if you want to have any idea what is going on.

With any hope of returning to his own time stolen, Jacob Portman now has no choice but to help his newfound friends to save Miss Peregrine. Following her injuries, their caretaker has not been able to return to her human form. It’s not long before they learn that she is now in terrible danger. Miss Peregrine can only be cured by another Ymbryne. If the children can’t find one in three days, she will lose her humanity and become a bird forever.

No longer protected by the loop, the children begin a long journey across the country in search of allies. However, they have been stranded in the 1940s and so it is not the safest time for the children to travel alone. People are suspicious of strangers and are quick to accuse those who stand out of being German spies. And at night, the bombs begin to fall.

To make matters worse, the children are still being relentlessly pursued by both Wights and Hollows. Every loop they come across seems to have already been ransacked and Jacob and his friends are forced to face the grim possibility that they are now the only ones left. Yet what can the Wights possibly be planning and where are they taking the kidnapped Ymbrynes?

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The X-Files: Ground Zero

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:

Goblins | Whirlwind

I apologise for the lack of reviews over the last few weeks – I’ve had a bit of a rough time of late. Still, hopefully that is now all over with and so I can get back to working through my ominous “to read” pile…

For tonight’s review, I will be returning to the series of original The X-Files novels that were published between 1994 and 1998. This was a collection of six full-length stories by three different authors that presented self-contained adventures for Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully which were never made into episodes. Today, I’ll be looking at the third novel – Ground Zero by Kevin J Anderson. And there will be spoilers. You have been warned…

Dr Emil Gregory has worked as a nuclear weapons researcher for decades and is proud to have been involved with dozens of top-secret projects. Yet his most recent one – code named Bright Anvil – is set to be the most incredible of them all. Unfortunately, Dr Gregory does not live to see it come to fruition. He is found in his remarkably intact office, burned to a crisp by radioactive fire.

As the death occurred on Federal property, Mulder and Scully are quickly called upon to investigate. However, it’s not long before they realise that Dr Gregory is not the only one to have died in such a way. Several other victims are found with similar injuries and the only thing connecting them is that they have each had some association with nuclear weapons tests in the past.

It’s not long before Mulder and Scully discover a link to a protest group lead by a former assistant of Dr Gregory. Is it possible that they have something to do with the murders and, if so, what possible weapon could they have developed to exact their revenge? As Operation Bright Anvil draws closer, Mulder and Scully enter a race against to clock to find out who is responsible before they can endanger everyone involved in the project…

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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 from 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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