The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

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

Twice Magic was written by Cressida Cowell and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing adventures of Xar and Wish as they seek to find a way to defeat the evil Kingwitch once and for all. The novel follows The Wizards of Once (2017) and precedes Knock Three Times (2019), so I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Following his previous adventure, Encanto has had Xar locked up in the terrible prison of Gormincrag. He claims that it is for his own good – a way to protect himself and those around him until the witchstain can be removed – but Xar has his doubts. The Drood Commander who runs the prison hates everything to do with witches, and Xar knows that it is likely that he will be locked away forever.

Wish is also having a difficult time. Even though the Stone-That-Takes-Away-Magic has been destroyed, Queen Sychorax is more determined than ever to destroy the Wizards. She also still seems to be thoroughly disappointed in Wish, which puts her in an awkward position. How can Wish learn to use her newfound powers while still keeping them secret from her magic-hating mother?

It’s not long before fate – or, rather, a stolen spelling book – draws Xar and Wish together again. When they discover a spell that reportedly gets rid of witches, the two set off on an epic quest to locate the rare ingredients that it requires. However, their quest will not be easy. With wizards, warriors and witches in hot pursuit, it’s a race against the clock to complete the spell before the three great armies collide…

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Red Winter

Red Winter was written by Annette Marie and first published in 2016. It is an urban fantasy story set in Japan, focusing on a shrine maiden who discovers that the spiritual world may not be as black and white as she was led to believe. The novel forms the first part of the Red Winter Trilogy and is followed by Dark Tempest (2017) and Immortal Fire (2017).

Emi is proud to be the kamigakari. Ever since Amaterasu’s mark appeared on her chest, she has led a sheltered life to ensure that her body and spirit are pure enough to be a vessel for the kami’s power. Although Emi is not sure what the future will hold for her, she is proud to have been chosen and nervously looks forward to the day when she and Amaterasu will become one.

However, not everyone is as keen for the goddess to walk the earth once again. For years, evil yōkai have tried to kill Emi to delay the descension. Due to this, she is regularly moved from shrine to shrine and always protected by sohei – warrior monks. Her final few months as a mortal are to be spent at the remote Shirayuri Shrine and she is shocked on arrival to discover that her new sohei is Katsuo – a boy who was indirectly linked to the greatest tragedy of her life.

Although shaken by seeing Katsuo once again, Emi is determined to not let this affect her duty. However, things start to change as she discovers what it truly means to be the kamigakari and saves the life of Shiro – a kitsune – who should be her sworn enemy. Shiro now owes her a debt, and Emi needs to find a way to change her fate. However, is a single fox’s magic enough to stand up to the power of the gods?

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The Deathless Girls

The Deathless Girls was written by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and first published in 2019. It is a Gothic horror novel which tells the untold tale of the Brides of Dracula. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Lillai and her twin sister, Kisaiya, have just turned seventeen and that means that it is time for their Divining Day – the moment when they will find out what the fates have in store for them. Lil is certain that her beautiful and outgoing sister will be an ursar – a bear dancer – yet she is less certain what place she will be given within their Traveller community. However, the future for Lil and Kizzy holds nothing but bloodshed and death. Before their palms can be read, their camp is ransacked and they are torn from everything that they once knew.

The girls’ destiny lies in the court of Boyar Valcar – a lord who is well known for his “love” of pretty young girls. They are put to work in Valcar’s kitchens but know that it can only be a matter of time before they are forced to serve him in other ways. While Kizzy endangers herself by constantly battling their captors, Lil would rather accept their fate to avoid further to pain. For Lil, the one ray of light comes in the form of Mira – another kitchen girl whom Lil is inexplicably drawn to.

However, as Lil adjusts to life as a slave, she starts to learn disquieting things about her captors. Valcar and the other Boyars answer to a mysterious prince known as the Dragon – a man made legend due to his brutality. In order to keep their master’s favour, each Boyar must present the Dragon with a regular sacrifice. As beautiful Kizzy starts to be noticed more and more, Lil realises that there is a good chance that she could be next…

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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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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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