Uki and the Outcasts

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

Uki and the Outcasts was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story, set in our far future when humans are extinct and rabbits are the dominant species on the planet. The novel is the fourth instalment of The Five Realms series and follows Podkin One-Ear (2016), The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) and The Beasts of Grimheart (2018).

As the Bard continues his journey north, his is approached by another figure from his past and Rue starts to learn that there is more about his mentor than he ever could have imagined. The Bard is a member of a secret society called the Foxguard who exist to protect the world from a sinister cult who are known as the Endwatch. As rumours of cultist activity emerge, the Bard and Rue are forced to head across the icy wastes to investigate.

As they travel, the Bard begins a new tale about a hero who once also had to face the Endwatch. Uki was mistreated by his clan due to the fact that he was born with half-black, half-white fur. When an incident within the tribe leads to his injury, Uki and his mother are forced to flee into the wilds where they will surely die. Luckily, Uki’s life is saved by a mysterious spirit from a different time. Iffrit binds himself to Uki, giving him new powers, but needs something in return.

Iffrit was once a gaoler, but the four evil spirits that were imprisoned with him have now escaped. Uki needs to travel the world in order to recapture them, before they can spread war, plague, famine and death across the lands. He soon gains help from Jori, an assassin exiled from her clan because she will not kill, and Kree, an abnormally small rabbit who rides a tailless jerboa. But will three outcast rabbits be enough to take down an ancient evil?

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School for Nobodies

School for Nobodies was first published in 2020 and is Susie Bower’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story for young readers which focuses on a girl who travels to a mysterious boarding school in search of her missing twin. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It was not until her tenth birthday that Flynn finally learned her real name. After a fire killed her parents and left her scarred, she was forced to live with Sonia and Claude – two well-off adults who only adopted her to look generous. Things change when she receives the note on her birthday, revealing that she actually has a twin who is attending an nearby affluent boarding school.

Flynn orchestrates a way to force her adoptive parents to send her to that same school, but things go horribly wrong when they instead send her to the run-down school next door. The Cruet Establishment for Lost and Wayward Children is a reform school for children who prove difficult to handle. Students are stripped of their names and belongings until they earn the right to have them back. They also are forbidden to make any kind of contact with the neigbouring school children.

Flynn is determined to find a way to get to her twin, yet things seem to be impossible. However, that’s before she encounters the crow. The crow seems sinister but promises that it can unite the two of them on a special day, when a gateway between the two schools opens. Yet can she trust the crow, and will she possibly be able to get away from her horrible classmates?

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The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency was written by L.D. Lapinski and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade fantasy story that focuses on a 12-year-old girl who discovers a way to travel to parallel dimensions. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, but at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Felicity “Flick” Hudson is deeply unhappy. Her parents have just moved from the city to the small town of Little Wyverns and do not seem to have much time for her. All Flick wants to do is travel and see the world, but she’s stuck spending most of her time looking after her baby brother while her parents are working. Luckily for Flick, she soon stumbles across a mysterious travel agency which could give her everything that she has ever dreamed of.

Jonathan Mercator is only eighteen but has been single-handedly running The Strangeworlds Travel Agency since his father’s disappearance. Unlike regular travel agents, he curates a vast collection of suitcases which each contain a portal to another world. Magically gifted individuals are free to borrow a suitcase, so long as they report back on what they have discovered. Jonathan quickly realises that Flick is more than eligible to join their ranks.

While Flick and Jonathan’s early adventures seem harmless enough, they soon realise that something is wrong with the multiverse. The balance between worlds has been disrupted and all issues seem to be stemming from Five Lights – a city at the centre of it all. If they can’t find a way to fix Five Lights soon, the entire multiverse could collapse and destroy everything, including Flick’s world!

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The Vanishing Trick

The Vanishing Trick was written by Jenni Spangler and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy story set in Victorian England, focusing on three young children who are cursed by a cruel and mysterious woman. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

When Leander first encounters Madame Pinchbeck, he thinks that it might be an opportunity to make a bit of money. He has been living hand-to-mouth ever since his mother died, and the strange woman seems oddly eager to buy his locket. What Leander does not realise is that Madame Pinchbeck possesses a sinister power. She has the ability to transform any lidded object into a cabinet – and bind a child to that cabinet forever.

Through this trade, Leander gains the power to travel in and out of his locket at will but it comes at a terrible price. He is forced to remain close to Madame Pinchbeck at all times. If he wanders too far away – or anything if anything was to happen to her – he would fade away into nothing. Along with two other trapped children – Charlotte and Felix – Leander is put to work for his new master. Madame Pinchbeck is a spirit medium and her peculiar magic is perfect for tricking people into believing that their deceased loved ones have returned.

However, it is not long before the children notice that Pinchbeck is starting to weaken. The strain of having three cabinets is too much for her to take and it won’t be long before she is forced choose which children she wishes to keep. Leander and his new friends realise that they must find a way to break her spell before one of them is forced to vanish forever…

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The Smoke Thieves

The Smoke Thieves was written by Sally Green and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy novel that is set in a world where three nations are on the brink of war. The novel is the first part of The Smoke Thieves Trilogy and is followed by The Demon World (2019). The final instalment of the series – The Burning Kingdoms – is due for release later this year.

Princess Catherine of Brigant is preparing for her marriage to Prince Tzsayn of Pitoria – a man that she has never met. The only good thing that she can see coming from this union is that she will be finally free of her warmongering father, King Aloysius. However, she cannot stand the thought of being separated from her beloved guard, Ambrosius. She knows that if her father ever discovered the true extent of her feelings towards Ambrosius, they would both be executed for treason. However, it is becoming harder and harder to hide her affection.

Meanwhile, in Pitoria, two survivors of the destruction of Abask are hunting for the illegitimate heir of Calidor. March and Holywell are determined to have their revenge against King Thelonius of Calidor and what better way to do so then to sell his only surviving son to King Aloysius? However, when March finally meets Edyon Foss he is shocked to find that he actually likes the young thief. Yet their journey grows more complicated as their paths cross with two demon hunters – Tash and Gravell – and Edyon steals a vial of their illegal demon smoke.

As Catherine, Ambrosius, March, Edyon and Tash’s destinies slowly entwine, a greater conspiracy in afoot. King Aloysius is training an army of boys and has purchased vast amounts of demon smoke. Catherine and her allies need to figure out what he is up to quickly, before the tyrant king finds a way to take over the whole world…

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Shadowsea

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

Cogheart | Moonlocket | Skycircus

Shadowsea was written by Peter Bunzl and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade steampunk science-fiction novel, focusing on the continuing adventures of Lily Townsend – a young girl with a perpetual motion machine for a heart. The novel carries on from where Cogheart (2016), Moonlocket (2017) and Skycircus (2018) left off, so I would recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Lily, Robert, John and Malkin are excited to travel to New York City. Not only will they be able to visit Selena and Caddy once again, but they will also get to ring in the New Year in one of the biggest and busiest cities on the planet. Yet Lily can’t help but also feel a little nervous. Now that the secrets of the Cogheart have been revealed to the world, she feels that everyone is watching her. No one seems to be interested in the wonderful things that she has achieved. They are only interested in her heart and the accident that took the life of her mother.

Yet it is not long before Lily finds herself swept up in a new adventure. The hotel room next door is occupied by the stern Professor Milksop and her young nephew, Dane. Professor Milksop advises them that Dane is seriously ill and needs his rest, but Lily is not convinced. It’s not long before Dane confirms her suspicions are correct. He has lost all of his memories but knows that something terrible has happened – something to do with Professor Milksop. He needs Lily’s help to find out who he is and what happened to his parents.

As Lily investigates, she uncovers a mystery that is beyond her wildest dreams, involving diamond thefts and a machine that can potentially reanimate the dead. Yet, when Caddy has a vision that Dane will soon be used to perform an unspeakable act and the young boy is suddenly kidnapped, Lily realises that they don’t have a lot of time. If they can’t save Dane before New Years Day, it could be too late to stop Professor Milksop’s terrible brand of science from being unleashed on the world…

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The Toll

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

Scythe | Thunderhead

The Toll was written by Neal Shusterman and first published in 2019. It forms the final part of the Arc of a Scythe Trilogy, now set in a grim world where life and death are controlled by one power-hungry psychopath. The novel follows on directly from where Scythe (2016) and Thunderhead (2018) left off, so I would recommend reading these novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

In the wake of the great tragedy of Endura, the world has rapidly changed for the worst. Thunderhead has gone silent, declaring everyone except for Greyson Tolliver as unsavoury. Any supporter of Scythe Curie has either gone to ground or been culled. Citra is missing and presumed dead. Scythe Goddard has declared himself as the first Overscythe and taken to revising the governing rules of the Scythes, removing gleaning quotas and permitting Scythes to act on their personal prejudices towards certain races or religious groups.

The only hope for the world lies with Faraday and Munira, who have headed deep into Thunderhead’s blind spot to find the legendary fail-safe – something with the power to put an end to the Scythes. However, when they find themselves marooned on the island with no way of activating the fail-safe, it seems that any chance of stopping Goddard is lost. Fortunately, Thunderhead has not given up on them. Within weeks, boats of workers also start to dock on the remote atoll. They have been instructed to build something huge – something that could save the human race. Trouble is, no one knows what it is.

On the other side of the world, several other groups work tirelessly to stop Goddard. A salvage crew rescue Citra from the ruins of Endura and use her as a mouthpiece to reveal Goddard’s crimes, and Greyson re-imagines himself as the Toll – the chosen prophet who can unite the Tonists against their enemies. Yet will they be enough to stop Goddard when 80% of Scythes in America support his regime?

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Point Horror 1-5

It’s time to begin a new series of my retrospective reviews. Hooray! As I’ve now read through every single Animorphs and classic Goosebumps book, I think it’s time to now turn my attention to some classic horror stories for older teens. That’s right, it’s time to revisit Point Horror.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Point Horror is a anthology series that was published by Scholastic between 1991 and 2014. Early instalments were just re-prints of earlier Scholastic titles, but the series achieved massive popularity in the mid-nineties and was a staple favourite of every teen. The stories are somewhat darker than Goosebumps books, often focusing on older teens as they are targeted by stalkers and psychopaths. Please note that, as per all of my other retrospectives, this post will contain massive spoilers for the novels in question.

In Twisted (written by R.L. Stine), Abby is determined to become a Tri Gam as it is the most exclusive sorority on campus and the only accepts a chosen few each year. The thing that she was not prepared for was the hazing. To become a Tri Gam, the pledges need to commit a crime. However, when something goes horribly wrong and someone winds up dead, Abby and the new pledges are forced to band together to hide their shared secret…

In The Lifeguard (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cusick), Kelsey’s summer holiday on Beverly Island begins in disaster. She was supposed to be staying with her mum’s new boyfriend but his teenage daughter, Beth, has vanished. As Kelsey explores the island, she soon learns that Beth is not the first. A number of young women have mysteriously drowned off the coast of the Island. It’s almost like the local lifeguards aren’t doing a very good job…

In Party Line (written by A Bates), Mark is addicted to calling the Party Line as he finds it so much easier to talk anonymously to girls. It’s not long before he begins to recognise different voices, especially the sleazy and desperate “Ben”. However, when a girl goes missing shortly after agreeing to meet with Ben, Mark starts to realise that perhaps Party Line isn’t as harmless as it seems. But will he be able to track down Ben in real life without becoming one of his victims?

In The Baby-Sitter (written by R.L. Stine), Jenny is thrilled to be offered a regular baby-sitting gig after a chance meeting at the mall. However, when she first visits the Hagen house, she starts to have her doubts. It is really run-down and their neighbour is more than a little sinister, and there have also been those attacks on baby-sitters in the area. Then, the threatening phone calls start, promising her that “Company’s Coming”. Will Jenny manage to keep her wits about her and survive the night, or will she become another victim…

In Trick or Treat (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cusick), Martha isn’t happy to leave Chicago and move to the sticks to live with her new stepmother and her teenage son, Connor. However, she feels worse still when she sees the old, spooky house where they live. Then the practical jokes start, growing more dangerous and malicious by the day. She soon learns that something terrible once happened in the house, and she could very well be next!

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Scavenge the Stars

Scavenge the Stars was written by Tara Sim and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy story that is loosely inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Although Amaya is only a teenager, she has had everything taken from her. Sold to a debtor’s ship to pay off what her father owes, she risks life and limb pearl diving for her master. It has taken her years, but she is close to earning her freedom. That is, until she disobeys a direct order and rescues a drowning man.

Boon claims to be the wealthiest man in Moray and seems more than willing to share his fortune with his saviour. Amaya is pretty certain that he is lying but is tantalised by what Boon offers her. With such wealth, she can buy a place in Moray’s high society. From there, she can finally have her revenge against Kamon Mercado – the man who stole everything from her family.

Yet Moray has changed a lot while Amaya has been away. Ash fever is sweeping through the populous unchecked, killing more and more each day. When Cayo Mercado’s sister falls ill, he knows that he needs to do everything in his power to prolong her life. His investigations take him deep into the underworld of Moray and reveals uncomfortable truths about his father’s business dealings. They also bring him into contact with the Countess Yamaa – a mysterious newcomer who also seems to have some interest in his family.

Both Amaya and Cayo are playing a dangerous game, and both know that even the smallest slip-up will result in certain death…

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The Stone of Kuromori

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

The Sword of Kuromori | The Shield of Kuromori

The Stone of Kuromori was written by Jason Rohan and first published in 2016. It is the final part of The Sword of Kuromori trilogy and follows Kenny Blackwood’s continuing adventures as he tries to locate a trinity of magical objects. The novel follows on directly from where The Sword of Kuromori (2014) and The Shield of Kuromori (2015) left off. Due to this, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Although Kenny managed to buy some more time for Kiyomi, her humanity still hangs in the balance. If he can’t locate the missing stone within four days, Susanoo-wo will claim her soul and transform her into a savage oni. The problem is that the stone has been lost for centuries. It is believed that it can be found in Dragon King’s Palace. Trouble is that the Palace lies deep beneath the ocean and the Dragon King is reluctant to part with his treasures.

Yet this may not be the worst of Kenny’s problems. Susanoo-wo cannot be trusted and has had a long time to plan his revenge against the gods that imprisoned him. It’s not long before Kenny realises that, in his desperation to save his friend, he has played directly into the god’s hands. His short-sightedness has not only gifted Susanoo-wo with a terrible power but also made it possible for him to permanently open the gates to Yomi – the realm of the dead.

Kenny knows that he can’t allow all of Earth to become Susanoo-wo’s hellish domain, yet victory seems to be futile. His allies are few in number and Susanoo-wo commands a legion of yōkai and oni. If Kenny is to save the day, it is going to take all of his magic and cunning. Will he be able to defeat the storm god, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?

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