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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Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures

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:

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball | Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords | Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief | Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday

Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2019. It is a middle-grade fantasy story about the adventures of a young vampire and her monstrous friends. The novel forms the fifth instalment of the Amelia Fang series, following Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017), Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018), Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (2018) and Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (2019). Because of this, I would recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Amelia, Florence, Grimaldi, Tangine and Squashy have been invited to stay in the Ancient Yeti Pits to celebrate the 350th birthday of Florence’s Grand-Yeti. It’s not long before the party is in full swing, with plenty of dancing, presents and bumping bums. However, due to the excitement, Amelia is struggling to find time to break some bad news to Florence. The Pumpkineers’ Club is also having a party, and so Amelia will have to leave early if she wants to go.

Yet, it’s not long before strange things start happening in the Yeti pits. First, someone uses all of Tangine’s Everyking Sparkles cream. Then, the precious treasures belonging to the Yeti’s also start to vanish. Worse still, something goes wrong within the pits and the homes of the Yetis all begin to collapse.

If the mountain is declared unsafe, Amelia knows that it will mean that Florence and her family will potentially need to move away. Due to this, it’s up to the group to solve the mystery of just what is happening in the mountain and ensure that it can’t happen again. Yet, with the mountain falling apart around them, Amelia knows that they need to be fast and careful. One wrong step could mean that they are trapped underground forever…  More

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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Flame and Fury

Flame and Fury was written by Lisa Gail Green and first published in 2017. It is an urban fantasy story which is loosely inspired by Arthurian legends. The novel forms the first part of the Merlin’s Legacy series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Aedan has a secret. For his whole life, he has struggled to control terrible fire magic and it has already cost him three people that he cared about. In order to prevent any further deaths, he distances himself from others and keeps himself to himself. That is, until his adoptive mother arranges for him to tutor Maya in mathematics. It’s not long before Aedan finds himself falling for Maya and she makes it clear that the feeling is mutual.

However, Maya is also hiding a secret. She is a member of an ancient order known as the Circle and has been groomed her whole life to seek out and destroy “elementals”. These soulless beings are born once every two hundred years and, if left to their own devices, will unite to destroy the world. Maya has narrowed down the identity of the fire elemental to five teenagers, and one of those is Aedan.

It’s not long before Aedan is approached by another elemental – Kari – and starts to learn the truth about his powers. Kari belongs to another cult – Scimitar – which plans to bring the four elementals together on the coming Equinox. Although Kari has been long prepared for the role that she will play in apocalypse, Aedan is unconvinced. He loves his family and does not want any harm to come to them. Yet will this be enough to overcome the reason for his birth and the tantalising draw of dark magic…

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Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Unicorn Power! | The Moon is Up | The Good Egg

Ghost Cabin was written by Mariko Tamaki and first published in 2019. It forms the fourth instalment of the Lumberjanes series of novels, which in turn is based on the comic book series of the same name. The novel follows on from where Unicorn Power! (2017), The Moon is Up (2018) and The Good Egg (2018) left off, so you really need to read the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

When Molly receives a care package from her mother that consists of nothing more than enormous stack of homework, Mal knows that she needs to do something to raise her girlfriend’s spirits. Taking inspiration from a ghost story about a haunted cabin and her own missing socks, she weaves a great mystery that is sure to take Molly’s mind off things. After all, no Lumberjane can resist a quest.

Their investigation soon takes them to a long-deserted cabin on the edge of Lake Specter and it is there that they meet Deborah, Maggie, Heddie and Claudia – the spirits of four former Lumberjanes. The girls have been spirits for as long as they can remember and stole Mal’s socks for a reason. They have been watching the Roanoke scouts in their adventures and want their help to earn some badges of their own.

Yet, as the Lumberjanes get closer to the ghosts, Mal and Molly start to notice that something is a amiss. Claudia does not seem to be as enthusiastic as her friends and Molly is quick to empathise with her plight. As Claudia shares with them the truth about her past and her dreams for the future, Molly realises that it is her duty to help the ghost to find happiness. However, Claudia’s cabin mates are not quite so understanding…

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In the Way of All Flesh

In the Way of All Flesh was written by Caitlin Alise Donovan and first published in 2019. It is an urban fantasy story that focuses on a teenage girl as she tries to cope with a frightening and isolating power. The novel stands alone, although does have the potential to form the first instalment of a longer series.

Manee Srikwan has a good reason to avoid her classmates. She wears gloves and long-sleeved clothing at all times as it is the only way to control her horrifying power. Whenever Manee makes physical contact with a person, even if it is just for a second, she has a vision of the way that person will eventually die. She also has a terrible fear that perhaps she is somehow the one that causes these messy and inescapable fates.

However, things start to change when she makes friends with Stephanie Pierce. Stephanie is confident, beautiful and out-going, and Manee quickly grows attracted to her. She also starts to grow more comfortable with her abilities as the two work together to prevent the death of one of her classmates. However, Manee’s happiness unfortunately can’t last.

When Manee accidentally touches Stephanie, she learns that her beloved will soon be murdered. Worse still, Manee sees that she will be the killer. Desperate to prevent this terrible fate, she breaks off their friendship and puts as much distance between her and Stephanie as she can. However, she has not counted on the fact that Stephanie also has skeletons in her closet, and will stop at nothing to get Manee back…

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Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone | Days of Blood and Starlight | Night of Cake and Puppets

Dreams of Gods and Monsters was written by Laini Taylor and first published in 2014. It is a fantasy story that tells the continuing tale of two star-crossed lovers, and the world-spanning war between their people. The novel forms the final part of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, following Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), Days of Blood and Starlight (2012) and Night of Cake and Puppets (2013). As it carries on directly where these previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Karou has finally managed to seize control of the chimaera from the shadows, but it has come at a terrible cost. Thiago the White Wolf has been destroyed but his body is now inhabited by the soul of gentle Ziri, the last of the Kirin. Still, this is a small victory for Karou as it has enabled her to broker a tenuous alliance with Akiva and his rebel faction of Misbegotten. Although their numbers are few, they finally have a chance at defeating Jael once and for all.

However, it will not be easy. With the help of Razgut, Jael has led his army through the gate to Earth. His hope is to gain access to the humans’ weapons of mass destruction, and with them a way to destroy the chimaera forever. Yet his arrival sparks chaos all over the world. For the first time, humans have irrefutable evidence that angels exist. When Ziri’s demonic-looking original body is then found buried in a traditionally Muslim country, this excitement quickly turns to violence.

As Karou and her friends battle to save the chimaera, something worse still is brewing. Bruises are growing in the sky over the Far Isles and the Stelians know that it is a sign that something terrible is coming. They have the power to contain the threat, but the only way that they can do so is by hunting down the one who is responsible…

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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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All the Bad Apples

All the Bad Apples was written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle and first published in 2019. It is a work of magical realism that follows a teenage girl as she hunts for the truth behind her family’s supposed curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Deena Rys knows that her seventeenth birthday is going to go badly when she accidentally comes out to her devout Catholic father. However, she has no idea how bad things are going to get. When she tells her sister, Mandy, about what happened, Mandy panics. She tells Deena that there is a curse that affects all of the bad apples in their family – those that deviate too far from what their father believes to be normal. The following day, Mandy vanishes.

When someone matching Mandy’s description is seen hurling themselves off a cliff, everyone knows that there is no way for her to have survived. However, even as the family lay her to rest, Deena cannot accept this. Strange things have been happening since Mandy’s death, and she is starting to believe that there may be a curse after all. Although her friends and family urge her to move on, Deena realises that she on the right track when she finds the first letter.

Mandy’s letter is the start of a treasure hunt, and Deena knows that she will find her sister alive and well if she follows it to the end. Yet to do so, she must revisit tales of past crimes inflicted on the women in her family. The origins of the curse lie in generations past and those who were silenced by society for being bad apples. If Deena is ever going to find Mandy, she must follow the trail of letters and allow these ghosts to finally be heard…

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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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