Nevertell

Nevertell was written by Katharine Orton and first published in 2019. It is a historical fantasy story set in Stalin’s Russia, focusing on a young girl’s escape from a terrible labour camp. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lina has never known anything beyond the fences of the camp. Although her mother has told her wonderful stories about her Grandmother – a fierce woman who lives in distant Moscow – Lina knows that she is unlikely to ever meet her. However, things change when Lina learns that three dangerous convicts have decided to make an escape. They have agreed to take Lina with them, so long as she can use her job in the camp greenhouse to secure them food for their long journey.

While the escape largely goes to plan, Lina soon realises that she is in big trouble. Not only would her companions kill her without a thought, but the wilds of Siberia are filled with danger. Lack of food and biting cold threatens their every step, and ghostly wolves haunt the darkness. Once these creatures find their scent, Lina soon finds herself separated from the others and imprisoned by a mysterious sorceress who calls herself the Man Hunter.

Lina knows that she needs to find a way to escape, as the only way that she can possibly rescue her mother from the camp is by reaching her Grandmother. She soon manages to befriend Natalya – one of the many once-human “shadows” that the Sorceress keeps as servants. With the help of this mysterious spirit and a little magic of her own, Lina soon discovers that she has the power to achieve the impossible. But will it be enough to get all the way to Moscow?

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Mattimeo

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

Redwall | Mossflower

It seems fitting for my first review of a new year to take another nostalgic look back at one of my childhood favourites. Redwall was an epic fantasy series set in a Medieval society of anthropomorphic woodland creatures. It was first published between 1986 and 2011 and ran for twenty-one novels, only ending because of Brian Jacques’s death. For the purpose of this review I will be looking at the third instalment – Mattimeo – only.

Eight seasons have passed since the defeat of Cluny the Scourge, and Redwall Abbey has enjoyed peace under the watchful eye of Matthias the Warrior. However, this cannot last. As the Abbey dwellers prepare a great feast, Slagar the Cruel approaches. The masked fox has a personal vendetta against Matthias and is determined to make the brave mouse suffer.

Posing as entertainers, Slagar and his followers infiltrate the feast and make off into the night with a group of children. This includes Matthias’s beloved son, Mattimeo. His goal is to have the double glory of both selling Mattimeo into slavery and killing Matthias when he inevitably comes to free him. What follows is a dangerous trek across unknown lands as Mattimeo and his friends try to get away, and Matthias and group of scouts try their hardest to follow Slagar’s trail.

Yet things are also not restful at Redwall Abbey. Taking advantage of Matthias’s absence, a flock of birds descends on the peaceful creatures. They are led a wicked raven named General Ironbeak who has decided that the Abbey would make a perfect castle. How can the abbey dwellers possibly defend themselves when their warrior is too far away to protect them?

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I Hope You Get This Message

Sorry for being so quiet lately. I’ve had bit of a stressful couple of weeks and therefore put this blog on the back-burner while I focused on myself. However, I am feeling much better now so I’m going to spend the next few reviews catching you up on everything that I have been reading!

I Hope You Get This Message was written by Farah Naz Rishi and first published in 2019. It is a science fiction novel which focuses on how three teenagers spend their final week before the world ends. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Earth has intercepted a transmission from Alma – the only other inhabited planet in the Universe. Unfortunately, it is not good news. Alma created Earth with a purpose and are unhappy about how humans are treating the planet. A jury is currently in session to determine the fate of all human life. Depending on their verdict, a virus could be released in seven days that will wipe out all life on the planet.

Naturally, this news is taken in a variety of ways. While many believe the message to be a hoax, others take to the streets and begin looting. For Cate Collins, it could well be her last chance to learn the truth about her father. With only a few clues left by her schizophrenic mother to go by, she knows that it will be difficult but she has no choice but to try. She soon meets Adeem Kahn – a teenager in search of his estranged sister – and the two decide to help each other out on their quests.

In Roswell, Jesse Hewett has decided to take advantage of the desperation of others. Claiming to have invented a way to transmit messages to Alma, he becomes an overnight celebrity but also attracts the interest of some less-savoury individuals. It’s not long before Jesse, Cate and Adeem’s stories collide, but will the world end when they do?

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I Know You Remember

I Know You Remember was written by Jennifer Donaldson and first published in 2019. It is a mystery novel which focuses on a teenage girl’s search for her missing best friend. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Following the death of her mother, Ruthie Hayden is forced to move to Alaska to live with her estranged father and his new family. Although she is not happy about this, the one thing that she is looking forward to is seeing her childhood best friend, Zahra Gaines, again. Although Zahra and Ruthie have grown apart over the years, Ruthie has nothing but fond memories of their childhood and the fantasy stories that they wrote together.

However, Ruthie arrives in Anchorage to learn something terrible. Zahra had a fight with her boyfriend and stormed out of a party three days previously, and no one has seen her since. As Ruthie tries to find out the truth about what happened that night from the people who were there, she starts to learn disquieting things about Zahra. Her friend is no longer the creative artist that she once was, instead having become an athletic, party girl with no interest in books.

Yet Ruthie’s investigation uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friend and it’s not long before she realises that Zahra hides a dark secret. Something has happened to her over the time that Ruthie has been gone, and that thing changed her forever. As Ruthie delves deeply into her best friend’s past, she finds that nothing is quite as it seems and learns that some truths are better left buried…

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Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life was written by Adrienne Kress and first published in 2019. It is a prequel story to the popular video game of the same name, focusing on a teenager in 1940s New York as he uncovers a sinister mystery at the animation studio where he works. The novel stands alone, though I would recommend playing the game first if you want to fully appreciate it.

Since the death of his father, Daniel “Buddy” Lewek has been the primary breadwinner for his family and struggles to make ends meet. However, his luck seems to change when he impresses Joey Drew – the owner of a local animation studio – and is offered a well-paid job as a go-fer. Buddy is eager to impress his new colleagues with his artistic talent as he dreams of one day becoming an animator himself.

However, something seems to be strange at the studios. Pipes full of ink run through the walls, some of the staff are behaving strangely and Mister Drew is developing something in secret – something that he believes will restore the failing studio to greatness. Although Buddy wants to believe in his new employer, he is starting to have his doubts. When he befriends a young scriptwriter called Dot, he slowly starts to uncover the unbelievable truth hidden in the depths of the studio.

When one of Buddy’s co-workers suddenly vanishes, Buddy realises that he is the only one that can save the studio. However, as he descends into its depths, he realises that Joey Drew Studios are not a place where dreams are made. It is a place of nightmares…

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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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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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Malamander

Malamander was written by Thomas Taylor and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story which focuses on a young girl’s hunt for her missing parents at a mysterious seaside resort. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Herbert Lemon holds the prestigious post of Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. It’s his job to take care of all lost luggage and do everything he can to reunite it with its owners. However, when Violet Palma appears in his office, he realises that his job has just gotten more complicated. Violet was found in the hotel as a baby and now wants Herbert’s help to locate her missing parents.

As they explore the quaint town of Eerie-on-Sea, Violet quickly learns that nothing is quite as it seems. A fortune telling mechanical mermonkey prescribes books to visitors at the Eerie Book Dispensary, cats can talk and the owner of the fish and chip shop can’t leave his workplace due to a siren’s curse. Yet most mysterious of all is the tragic tale of the Malamander.

As Violet learns more about the fish man, she discovers that both of her parents were also obsessed with the legend. Could the Malamander have something to do with their disappearance, and could its wish-granting egg be the key to getting them back? Unfortunately for Violet and Herbert, there are others who are keen to get their hands to the Malamander egg, and they are prepared to hurt anyone who gets in their way…

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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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