The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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

The Hunger Games | Catching Fire | Mockingjay

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was written by Suzanne Collins and first published in 2020. It is a prequel to the popular The Hunger Games Trilogy and focuses on a young Coriolanus Snow as he mentors a tribute in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. Although it is set 64 years before the original trilogy, I would strongly recommend reading The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010) first to fully appreciate what is going on.

Coriolanus Snow is the heir of the Snow family, but since the war his family have sunk into poverty. In order to provide for his Grandmother and cousin, Tigris, he needs to win a grant to study at the Capitol’s university. Failure to do so will mean that they will certainly lose their apartment. Luckily, an opportunity has arisen. Coriolanus has been selected to mentor the District 12 tribute in the upcoming Hunger Games. If he makes a good impression, he will certainly secure the funding that he needs.

While Coriolanus does not expect that his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, will win the games, he is pleased when her talent for singing makes her a star in the Capitol. Desperately, he seeks a way to use this to his advantage and come out on top with popularity alone. However, as Coriolanus spends more time with Lucy Gray, he comes to realise that he actually wants to her to win. Although Lucy Gray does not look like much when compared to some of the stronger tributes, he begins to plan a strategy that will allow her to defeat them by any means necessary.

Yet his victory will not be easy. Hampered by the psychotic Gamesmaster and his association with Sejanus Plinth, a classmate who is oddly sympathetic with the Districts, Coriolanus must use all of his wits and cunning to succeed. If he cannot win a place at University, how will he ever succeed in his ambition of one day ruling Panem…

More

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…

More

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?

More

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!

More

The Kingdom of Back

The Kingdom of Back was written by Marie Lu and first published in 2020. It is a historical fantasy novel which focuses on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s previous work to fully appreciate it.

Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart lives to perform, but even as a young girl she knows that her days are numbered. Her skills at the clavier will only seem remarkable while she is still a child. Once she is grown, she will be expected to give it all up in order to get married and start a family. Things become worse still when her younger brother, Wolferl, reveals a prodigious talent for composition. How can she hope to be remembered when Wolferl’s star eclipses her own?

As they travel Europe to perform before nobles and Emperors, Nannerl and Wolferl amuse themselves by telling stories of a magical world called the Kingdom of Back. This is a world where rare edelweiss bloom everywhere and trees grow upside down. It’s not long before strange things begin to appear in the night and the Kingdom of Back seems more real. Although Nannerl at first believes she is dreaming, she starts to doubt this when a Faerie Princeling named Hyacinth reveals himself to her.

Hyacinth advises that he is Nannerl’s guardian and wishes to grant her deepest wish. In order to do so, she must compete three tasks for him. At first, Nannerl is excited to help to him the Princeling, but Wolferl seems to grow weaker with every task that she completes. It is not long before she is forced to question exactly what Hyacinth really wants. Who is he, and what will happen if she completes her final task?

More

The Night Country

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

The Night Country was written by Melissa Albert and first published in 2020. It is an urban fantasy novel that focuses on a group of refugees from a dying world who are forced to relocate to modern day New York. The novel is a direct sequel to The Hazel Wood (2018), and Albert also plans to release Tales from the Hinterlands – the fictional book of faerie stories featured in this series – in early 2021.

After Alice’s dangerous escape from the Hinterlands, she though that she would be able to build a better life for herself. However, she has slowly come to realise that the Hinterlands never really lets anyone go. Even though Alice has lost her icy powers, she still struggles to fit in. The human world feels unnatural to her, but the other Stories resent her for the roll she played in destroying their world.

While most of the Stories seem to be harmless enough, Alice soon learns that something dark still stalks amongst them. Something is brutally murdering the Stories, stealing a single body part from every one that that it slays. To make matters worse, the killer also seems to be able to freeze people with a touch. The remaining Stories are now starting to believe that Alice is responsible, and she knows that she needs to find out the killer’s true identity if she is to clear her name.

Meanwhile, in the ruins of the Hinterlands, Ellery Finch is trying to find his way home. As the world collapses around him, he strikes a deal with Iolanthe – a girl who knows how to make doors. All he wants is to return to New York and be with Alice once again. Little does he know that his return will not be easy. His journey takes him to a library of worlds where he learns of the existence of a legendary realm called the Night Country, and the terrible price that was paid to create it…

More

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…

More

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?

More

The Guinevere Deception

The Guinevere Deception was written by Kiersten White and first published in 2019. It is a fantastical mystery which retells the story of Camelot from the perspective of Queen Guinevere. The novel is the first part of a planned series and the sequel – The Camelot Betrayal – is planned for release in November 2020.

Guinevere has travelled to Camelot for the first time to wed King Arthur – a man that she has never met. At least, that is how it appears from the outside. The truth is that the true Guinevere is dead and this one is an impostor, her identity concealed by Merlin’s magic. It is her duty to infiltrate all levels of Camelot’s society and defend the young king against an unknown threat.

The problem is that Guinevere does not know what form this magical attack will take. While she can sense some kind of witchcraft afoot in in the great city, she does not know what direction an attack will come from. Arthur is also not the easiest man to protect as his duties take him all over the kingdom, frequently leaving him exposed to an assassination attempt.

Guinevere immediately comes to suspect that the Patchwork Knight – an aspirant knight – has some connection to a woman who has been recently exiled for witchcraft, but her investigation into this is hampered by her expected duties as a lady of the court. Guinevere knows that she needs to find a balance and quickly. The woods are starting to awaken and the legendary Dark Queen may be moving against Camelot once again…

More

The Girl who Speaks Bear

The Girl Who Speaks Bear was written by Sophie Anderson and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story that focuses on a young girl who is searching for a way to break a strange curse. Although the novel has ties to The House with Chicken Legs (2018), it does still stand alone and can be thoroughly enjoyed if you haven’t read Anderson’s previous book.

Yanka has never really felt as though she belongs in the village. She was found in the woods by her Mamochka when she was a toddler and the other children are not always kind to her. Due to the fact that she is so big and strong, they have started to call her “Yanka the Bear” and Yanka knows that they laugh behind her back. Yet she also knows that she is not like them. Sometimes, Yanka feels the pull of the forest and she does not know why.

One morning, Yanka wakes up to find that she has grown furry bear legs. Although Mamochka is convinced that it some kind of strange infection, Yanka knows that this is not true. She has grown up listening to stories about a family who were cursed to become bears, and now knows that the same thing is happening to her. To find a way to lift the curse, she knows that she must seek out the legendary Bear Tsarina and ask for her assistance.

Yet the forest is dangerous, even with the protection of Mousetrap the house weasel – the self-proclaimed fiercest hunter. Yanka must face hungry wolves, witches, and even a fire dragon if she wants to find a way to restore herself. Even then, Yanka is not certain that it will make her truly happy. The forest is calling to her louder than ever before. Perhaps Yanka would be better off as a bear…

More

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 75,776 awesome people have visited this blog

© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All novels reviewed on this site are © to their respective authors.