The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds was written by Alexandra Bracken and first published in 2012. The novel follows the story of a group of teenagers with strange powers, who are forced to flee across America in search of a safe haven. The book forms the first part of The Darkest Minds series and is followed by Never Fade (2013), In the Afterlight (2014) and The Darkest Legacy (2018).

When Ruby was ten, a mysterious disease swept across America. Parents were forced to watch helplessly as a majority of their children died of Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. However, the fate of the survivors was far worse. The children were left with terrible powers, ranging from hyper intelligence to pyrokinesis. Terrified by the implications of this, the government quickly set up rehabilitation camps, spinning them as places where the children could be cured. The truth was that they were little more than prisons.

Ruby has lived in Thurmond since she was ten years old and hides a terrible secret. On the day that she was sorted, she saw into the doctor’s mind and realised the danger of seeming two powerful. Using her powers, she made him believe that she was just a Green – someone who possessed a photographic memory. She is now forced to be super careful to ensure that no one realises that she is actually an Orange – someone with the power to change memories and control minds.

Yet all of that is about to change. When Ruby’s secret is revealed, she is forced to accept the help of a mysterious doctor in order to escape the camp. Yet, once outside, she soon learns that her rescuer’s motives may not be that altruistic. As she runs away, she soon finds herself in the company of a small group of teenagers who are in search of the “Slip Kid” – someone with the power to protect them. Yet could this all be too good to be true and, in this dangerous world, is there anywhere that is truly safe?

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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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Sorcery of Thorns

Sorcery of Thorns was written by Margaret Rogerson and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on a wrongfully accused apprentice who teams up with her sworn enemy in order to investigate a murder. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Elizabeth Scrivener has always known what she wants from life. Raised within one of the Great Libraries of Austemere, she has been apprenticed directly to the Director to learn how to be a Warden. It is the role of these skilled warriors to protect the public from Grimoires – dangerous magical tomes which have been confiscated from Sorcerers. Only Wardens are powerful enough to prevent Grimoires from transforming into Maleficts – monsters intent on taking human life.

However, Elizabeth soon learns that her future is not assured. When the Director is killed after a Malefict is let loose in the library, Elizabeth finds herself under suspicion of murder. As the crime involved a Grimoire, she is banished from the library and escorted to the capital in the company of Nathaniel Thorn – a young sorcerer – and his mysterious butler, Silas. For Elizabeth, there can be no worse fate. Every librarian knows that sorcerers are monsters. In fact, Elizabeth suspects that Nathaniel may have had a hand in the Director’s death.

As Elizabeth sees the larger world, she starts to realise how sheltered her upbringing was. While the sorcerers are dangerous, the populous at large see them in a very different light. Still, it’s not long before Elizabeth begins to uncover evidence of a deadly plot that threatens every library. Yet who will possibly believe her accusations when it is just the word of a young woman against the most powerful man in all of Austermere…

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The House with Chicken Legs

The House with Chicken Legs was written by Sophie Anderson and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on a young girl who longs to escape her restrictive destiny. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Although people believe the Yaga to be witches, it is just because they do not understand the important role that they serve. Baba Yaga, like all of her kind, travels the world in her magical house. Her job is to guard the gateway to the afterlife and help all lost souls to find their way to the other side. It is an important role, however it is one that Marinka has come to loathe.

Marinka is Baba Yaga’s granddaughter and so has spent her entire life in the house, learning the ways of the Yaga in preparation for the day that her grandmother must make her journey through the gate. But this is not the life that Marinka wants. The house is always moving on and her grandmother does not allow her to make friends, as their art must remain secret from the living. The fact that she can’t even leave the house unaccompanied makes her even more claustrophobic.

This is why Marinka chooses to rebel and finally make a friend. She cannot possibly know what terrible consequences this will bring on the house. When Baba Yaga disappears and Marinka finds herself alone, she realises that she must do everything that she can to bring her grandmother home. Yet she can’t possibly succeed without the house’s help, and the house seems oddly unwilling to assist her…

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Wildspark

Wildspark was written by Vashti Hardy and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story which focuses on a young girl’s mission to save her deceased brother’s spirit. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When Francis died, Prue Haywood thought that she would never be happy again. However, this was before she learned about the Personifates. A secretive guild in Medlock have discovered the secret to capturing the spirits of the dead and binding them to animal machines, giving them a second chance at life. When a member of that guild comes to her farm seeking Francis as his apprentice, Prue is quick to take advantage. Taking on her brother’s identity, she assumes her place as a new student at the guild.

However, bringing back Francis will not be easy. Competition at the Factorium is fierce and only the best will eventually become craftsmen. The process of becoming a Personifate also wipes the second-lifer’s memory, so Prue will have to find a way to get the ghost machines to recall their past lives if she wants her brother to be the way he was.

Yet saving Francis may not be Prue’s most pressing problem. On the night of the Blood Moon, the guild plans to animate a hundred Personifates to show off their technology. However, there are people who do not wish for this to happen. When a Personifate is ripped apart in the woods, Prue and her friends realise that something dangerous is stalking the night. What she does not realise is that this creature has the power to completely change the status quo…

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Redwall

As it can take me a little while to get my hands on the Goosebumps books for my Vault reviews, I thought that I would also start looking at another series that I absolutely loved as a kid. Please note that, due to the age of the novels, this is going to be another of my retrospective posts. Therefore, there may be spoilers below. You have been warned.

Redwall was an epic series of middle grade fantasy novels written by Brian Jacques. The series ran for twenty-one books which were all published between 1986 and 2011. The novels are set in a world that seems to be exclusively populated by woodland creatures, focusing on the battles that the good creatures fight against vermin that would hurt or enslave them. For the purpose of this review, I am going to be looking at the first novel – Redwall (1986) – only.

It is the Summer of the Late Rose and the peaceful creatures of Redwall Abbey are preparing for a feast. However, all festivities are interrupted as they learn that Cluny the Scourge is approaching. The one-eyed rat leads an army of murderous rats, stoats, ferrets and weasels, and has decided that Redwall would be a perfect castle for his horde.

Although the walls of the Abbey are strong and tall, the mice and other woodland creatures realise that they can’t withstand Cluny’s siege forever. With the help of wise old Methuselah, a young mouse named Matthias begins to research the history of the Abbey’s founder – Martin the Warrior. If they can just find the resting place of Martin’s legendary sword, Matthias knows that they will have the power they need to unite the creatures of Mossflower Woods and defeat Cluny forever.

However, Matthias’s quest will not be easy. The sword has been lost for years and he will have to face warrior sparrows and deadly serpents in order to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Cluny’s army grows more cunning by the day and hatches dozens of devious schemes to breach the walls – or tunnel beneath them…

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The City of Brass

The City of Brass was written by S.A. Chakraborty and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy novel set in 18th Century Cairo, which focuses on a young woman who accidentally summons a djinn warrior. The novel forms the first part of The Daevabad Trilogy and is followed by The Kingdom of Copper (2019). The final instalment – The Empire of Gold – is expected to be released in early 2020.

Nahri does not believe in magic, though she is happy to profit from the people who do. Although she possesses an odd knack for knowing when her customers are ill, she uses her knowledge of rituals and palmistry to swindle the wealthy for every coin she can get. However, magic soon finds her. When she sings an ancient summoning song while performing a zar – an exorcism rite – she finds herself bound to a mysterious djinn warrior.

Dara is dark, brooding and takes an immediate disliking to Nahri. However, his opinion begins to change when a powerful Ifrit shows an interest in her. It’s clear that there is something odd about Nahri, and her strange abilities point to the fact that she might actually belong to an ancient tribe of daeva healers – one that was thought to have been wiped out decades before. Dara knows that the only way to keep Nahri safe is to get her to Daevabad – a hidden daeva city – yet the journey will be long and fraught with danger. It will take all of their skills and cunning to stay ahead of the Ifrit and other monsters that roam the desert.

Unbeknown to Dara and Nahri, Daevabad is on the cusp of war. The king struggles to keep each tribe satisfied, while also keeping half-breed shafits deliberately downtrodden to prevent any uprisings. Alizayd al Qahtani – second son of the king – is unsatisfied by the way that shafits are treated but his well-meaning attempts to help them ends disastrously, leaving him uncertain of how to preserve his name while still helping the lower classes. To survive in Daevabad, both Ali and Nahri need to learn how to play the game and outwit cunning djinn who have had centuries to secure power. Failure will mean certain death…

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The Dark Days Deceit

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:

The Dark Days Club | The Dark Days Pact

The Dark Days Deceit was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2018. It is the final instalment of the Lady Helen Trilogy, following Lady Helen and Lord Carlston as they hunt down the Grand Deceiver and defend the Crown. As the novel follows on directly from where The Dark Days Club (2015) and The Dark Days Pact (2017) left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have the faintest idea of what is going on.

Helen and Carlston have had little chance to test the strength of their new bond but time is running out. Now that they have joined to become the Grand Reclaimer dyad, they know that their counterpart – the Grand Deceiver – will also be growing in power. The problem is, they still do not know the identity of their enemy and only have the vaguest clues to begin their search.

To make it worse, Helen’s wedding to the Duke of Selburn is fast approaching and the Duke is eager for Helen to retire from her Reclaiming duties as soon as they are married. He occupation is clearly dangerous and he makes quite clear that he believes that her place is in the home, bearing him an heir. Although Helen knows that it is her duty to be his wife, she feels torn. Can she really give up her freedom as a Reclaimer and settle down? Worse still, can she really be a faithful wife when she still has strong feelings for Carlston?

When an attempt at harnessing the Grand Reclaimer power goes awry, Lady Helen quickly realises that they have a bigger problem. The magic of the Ligatus that she absorbed during their last battle was never meant to be contained within flesh. Unchecked, it threatens to tear a hole in the fabric of reality and bring instant death to the three who are bound to it by blood – Helen, Carlston and Darby. If Helen does not find a way to reign in its maddening power, there is no way that she will possibly survive to see her wedding day…

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The Beasts of Grimheart

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 was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2018. It is the third instalment of The Five Realms series, telling the continuing story of Podkin’s battles against the evil Gorm. The novel follows on directly from where Podkin One-Ear (2016) and The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) left off, so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what’s going on.

The Bard’s past has finally caught up with him as he finds himself captured by the Bonedancers. The tribe of assassins have been contracted to kill him due to an offensive story that he once told to the rabbits of Golden Brook. However, Sythica – Mother Superior of the Bonedancers – is merciful. She requests that the Bard tells her the same story. Only then will she decide if it is worthy of death.

The tale that the Bard tells is another one from the childhood of the legendary hero, Podkin. Following their last battle against Scramashank and the Gorm, Dark Hollow has become a safe haven for all rabbits. Yet, it seems that the forest won’t remain safe for long. The Gorm have created a deadly new machine – one with the power to tear up trees – and are coming from them.

Although the rabbits of Dark Hollow have arrows that are capable of destroying Scramashank once and for all, they need a special weapon to fire them. Thus, Podkin leads a small group to the Sparrowfast Warren in search of Soulshot – a bow that never misses its target. However, while on route, they are betrayed by one of their own and Podkin, Paz and Pook find themselves lost in the forest. Will the be able to find the others before the Gorm reach Dark Hollow? Or will they find themselves hunted by the fabled Beast of Grimheart?

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Skyward

Skyward was written by Brandon Sanderson and first published in 2018. It is a science-fiction novel set on a remote planet, where humans are forced to hide underground due to frequent alien attacks. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Ever since their ship crash landed on Detritus, Spensa’s people have been besieged by the Krell. The mysterious aliens frequently attack settlements, preventing them from growing too large or scavenging the materials that fall from the debris field that surrounds the planet. All it would take would be for the Krell to drop one lifebuster bomb in the right place and the human race could be wiped out forever.

The only thing protecting humans from the Krell are the pilots – brave men and women who risk their lives to engage the Krell in fierce aerial battles. It has always been Spensa’s dream to be one of them, but her father’s actions during the Battle of Alta have barred her from this forever. No one wants to give the time of day to the daughter of a coward, let alone allow her to pilot a fighter.

However, when Spensa manages to impress one of the tutors, she is given a chance to prove herself. Her time in training will not be easy due to her family’s reputation, but she is determined to prove Admiral Ironsides wrong by becoming the best pilot of all time. However, it’s not long before Spensa starts to learn the truth about her father. She has always been certain that he was no coward, but the truth about him could be more horrifying. Worse still, it could also affect her ability to fly…

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