All the Bad Apples

All the Bad Apples was written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle and first published in 2019. It is a work of magical realism that follows a teenage girl as she hunts for the truth behind her family’s supposed curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Deena Rys knows that her seventeenth birthday is going to go badly when she accidentally comes out to her devout Catholic father. However, she has no idea how bad things are going to get. When she tells her sister, Mandy, about what happened, Mandy panics. She tells Deena that there is a curse that affects all of the bad apples in their family – those that deviate too far from what their father believes to be normal. The following day, Mandy vanishes.

When someone matching Mandy’s description is seen hurling themselves off a cliff, everyone knows that there is no way for her to have survived. However, even as the family lay her to rest, Deena cannot accept this. Strange things have been happening since Mandy’s death, and she is starting to believe that there may be a curse after all. Although her friends and family urge her to move on, Deena realises that she on the right track when she finds the first letter.

Mandy’s letter is the start of a treasure hunt, and Deena knows that she will find her sister alive and well if she follows it to the end. Yet to do so, she must revisit tales of past crimes inflicted on the women in her family. The origins of the curse lie in generations past and those who were silenced by society for being bad apples. If Deena is ever going to find Mandy, she must follow the trail of letters and allow these ghosts to finally be heard…

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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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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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:

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

It’s my 500th review. Hooray! It’s taken me a long time to get here but thank-you so much to those who have read my reviews, offered suggestions and even submitted your own novels for my perusal. I’m looking forward to what the next 500 reviews will bring!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was written by J.K. Rowling and first published in 2007. It forms the final part of the main Harry Potter series, following on directly from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005). The series has since been followed by a number of other additions that further extend the universe, including short-stories, films and even a stage play. Please note that this review is going to contain some pretty major spoilers, as this book is now over ten years old and I expect that most of you are already familiar with it.

For the first time, Harry Potter will not be returning to Hogwarts. Following the death of his mentor, he knows that he needs to honour Dumbledore’s final request. With the help of Ron and Hermione, he must locate and destroy all of Voldemort’s horcruxes. This is the only way to render the Dark Lord mortal and ensure that he can be permanently defeated. Trouble is, Harry has no idea where to start. He does not even know what form two of the horcruxes will take, let alone how to find them.

Harry starts to have further doubts about their quest as he learns disquieting things about Dumbledore’s past. Although famed for his compassion, rumours have emerged about a wild youth filled with dark magic, duels and death. Although Harry had placed his trust in the elderly wizard, Harry now realised that Dumbledore had revealed very little to him and begins to feel resentful. Why should he risk everything, when Dumbledore did so little to prepare him?

Yet, as muggle-born wizards are ostracised from society and people close to Harry are hurt and killed, he realises that Voldemort needs to be stopped. His mission takes him all over the wizarding world – from the halls of the Ministry of Magic to the vaults of Gringotts. However, even Harry does not realise the full severity of his mission. If he wishes to defeat Voldemort, he must be prepared to sacrifice everything…

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Battle of the Beetles

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:

Beetle Boy | Beetle Queen

Battle of the Beetles was written by M.G. Leonard and first published in 2018. It forms the final part of the Battle of the Beetles Trilogy, following Beetle Boy (2016) and Beetle Queen (2017). As the novel carries on directly where previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Hidden in the depths of the Amazon rain forest, Lucretia Cutter has begun her bid for world domination. Her army of beetles is beginning to target crops around the world and slowly the governments are beginning to bow to her wishes. They have no choice – no one knows exactly where she is or how they can possibly stop such a wide-scale and devastating attack. To make worse, Barty Cuttle is known to have gone with her and has become a global scapegoat. Everyone believes him to be the mastermind, making him public enemy number one.

Darkus knows that his father is not a villain and is determined to prove it. Along with his allies – Virginia, Bertolt, Motty and Uncle Max – he begins to plan a way to find Cutter’s hidden biome and stop her before she can unleash any more monsters, or realise her plan to turn the captive Novak into a beetle-human hybrid.

Of course, Darkus will also be helped by his best beetle friends. Baxter and the other survivors of Beetle Mountain want nothing more than to free Cutter’s captive specimens. However, Darkus must be careful. Lucretia Cutter has made the world afraid of beetles, and this means that people may assume that he is in league with her if they learn the existence of his smallest allies…

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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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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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A Pinch of Magic

A Pinch of Magic was written by Michelle Harrison and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade novel that focuses on three sisters as they try to break a deadly family curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Betty Widdershins is fed up of her life on the remote island of Crowstone and longs to explore the world. However, on her thirteenth birthday, she learns that this will be impossible. A terrible curse has inflicted women of the Widdershins family for generations. If she ever passes beyond the confines of Crowstone and its three sister islands – Repent, Lament and Torment – she will be driven mad by the cawing of invisible crows and perish by the next sunset.

However, along with the curse, Betty also learns of her family inheritance. Each Widdershins girl is also gifted with a magic item – a mirror that allows one to see across great distances, a set of nesting dolls that grant the power of invisibility or a travelling bag that allows the owner to teleport. With the help of her two sisters, Fliss and Charlie, and with these items in hand, Betty sets out on a mission to break the curse and earn her freedom.

Their quest first takes them to a prison on Repent, where a teenage boy claims to know the secret to breaking the curse. Colton has been imprisoned for a crime that he claims he did not commit, but will only help the sisters if they first free him. Reluctantly, the Widdershins form a plan to use their magic to get him to safety. Yet, when something goes wrong and Fliss and Charlie are kidnapped, Betty finds herself in a race against time to find them and break the curse. If she fails, she now knows that her sisters will not live to see another day…

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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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