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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The International Yeti Collective

The International Yeti Collective was written by Paul Mason and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story about a young girl and her discovery of a secretive tribe of yeti. Although this novel is the first part of a planned series, at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Ella is thrilled to be spending her holidays in the Himalayas with her Uncle Jack, a famous adventurer. For his new television series, Jack is determined to prove the existence of the yeti. While the rest of his team is sceptical, Jack is confident that he will be able to use state-of-the-art technology to capture the elusive creatures on film and secure himself fame and fortune.

Tick is a young yeti who knows full well the dangers that humans pose. His own mother was exiled from the tribe for revealing her existence to them. However, Tick’s curiosity soon gets the better of himself as he tries to get a glimpse of Jack’s camp. Unfortunately, this puts his whole tribe in danger. As the yeti try to flee to safety, they are forced to leave behind the stone tablets that contain their whole history. Now that these are in human hands, it can only be a matter of them before humans learn the whereabouts of every yeti tribe on the planet.

It is up to Tick and his two friends, Plumm and Dahl, to track down the humans and reclaim the tablets. To do so, they will need to awaken the International Yeti Collective – a communication network between tribes that has been dormant for decades. Yet the most important help for Tick might come from a very unexpected source. Not all humans are bad, and Ella is eager to prove this…

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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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Crier’s War

Crier’s War was written by Nina Varela and will be released in the United Kingdom on 20th February 2020. It is a science-fiction fantasy story that is set in a world where humanoid Automae have taken control of the planet, treating the humans that created them as slaves. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Lady Crier was Made to her “father’s” exact specifications. King Hesod needed his daughter and heir to represent the very best of the Automae – intelligent, beautiful and refined. Her betrothal to the legendary warrior, Kinok, will only serve to make the Kingdom of Rabu even stronger. Yet Crier soon discovers that Kinok has learned something about her. He has discovered a flaw in her schematics which, if revealed, will certainly result in her termination. Crier soon realises that she is now just a pawn in a larger game and is powerless to stop it.

Ayla is a human girl who has good reason to hate the Automae. Her family was executed on Hesod’s orders and now she wants only one thing – to destroy his daughter from him in return. Fortune smiles on Ayla when she manages to save Crier’s life and is taken on as the lonely Automa’s handmaiden. She soon realises that this could be her chance not only to have her revenge but also destroy the Automae once and for all.

However, a deeper conspiracy is at foot. Crier and Ayla soon learn that Kinok may have made a dangerous discovery that could well remove the Automae’s only weakness. Doing so will inevitably cause a power struggle, putting both humans and Automae in danger. Both Crier and Ayla are determined to us this knowledge to their advantage, but soon find their individual missions hindered by their forbidden attraction to each other…

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The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch

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

The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch was written by Tom Fletcher and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story that focuses on a young boy and his friendship with the magical blue dinosaur that helps to pull Santa’s sleigh. The novel follows on from where The Christmasaurus (2016) left off and so I would recommend reading them in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

It has been a year since William first met the Christmasaurus and he can’t wait to see his magical friend again. When Santa shows up early to invite William on a tour of the North Pole, he is thrilled to finally get to share the fun with Brenda, Pamela and Bob. Santa is excited to show off the Elf Village and the first ever Christmas Tree. However, when Santa asks the Tree to grant each of the children one of its magical present-making beans, Brenda is annoyed that the Tree seems only willing to give one to William.

On returning home, Brenda convinces herself that she would make better use of the bean than William and steals it from his pocket. However, she soon realises the error of her ways when it falls into the hands of her Christmas-hating father. Barry Payne is the owner of a huge toy store and, with bean in hand, may finally have the power to put Santa out of business for good.

As belief in Christmas begins to fade, Santa and the elves slowly begin to vanish. The only way to save him might be to use the magic of the Winter Witch – a being who is able to control time – to change the past and restore the belief of children everywhere. However, meddling with time is dangerous and William and his friends need to be careful not to cause irreparable damage to the future…

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The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

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

Twice Magic was written by Cressida Cowell and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing adventures of Xar and Wish as they seek to find a way to defeat the evil Kingwitch once and for all. The novel follows The Wizards of Once (2017) and precedes Knock Three Times (2019), so I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Following his previous adventure, Encanto has had Xar locked up in the terrible prison of Gormincrag. He claims that it is for his own good – a way to protect himself and those around him until the witchstain can be removed – but Xar has his doubts. The Drood Commander who runs the prison hates everything to do with witches, and Xar knows that it is likely that he will be locked away forever.

Wish is also having a difficult time. Even though the Stone-That-Takes-Away-Magic has been destroyed, Queen Sychorax is more determined than ever to destroy the Wizards. She also still seems to be thoroughly disappointed in Wish, which puts her in an awkward position. How can Wish learn to use her newfound powers while still keeping them secret from her magic-hating mother?

It’s not long before fate – or, rather, a stolen spelling book – draws Xar and Wish together again. When they discover a spell that reportedly gets rid of witches, the two set off on an epic quest to locate the rare ingredients that it requires. However, their quest will not be easy. With wizards, warriors and witches in hot pursuit, it’s a race against the clock to complete the spell before the three great armies collide…

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Red Winter

Red Winter was written by Annette Marie and first published in 2016. It is an urban fantasy story set in Japan, focusing on a shrine maiden who discovers that the spiritual world may not be as black and white as she was led to believe. The novel forms the first part of the Red Winter Trilogy and is followed by Dark Tempest (2017) and Immortal Fire (2017).

Emi is proud to be the kamigakari. Ever since Amaterasu’s mark appeared on her chest, she has led a sheltered life to ensure that her body and spirit are pure enough to be a vessel for the kami’s power. Although Emi is not sure what the future will hold for her, she is proud to have been chosen and nervously looks forward to the day when she and Amaterasu will become one.

However, not everyone is as keen for the goddess to walk the earth once again. For years, evil yōkai have tried to kill Emi to delay the descension. Due to this, she is regularly moved from shrine to shrine and always protected by sohei – warrior monks. Her final few months as a mortal are to be spent at the remote Shirayuri Shrine and she is shocked on arrival to discover that her new sohei is Katsuo – a boy who was indirectly linked to the greatest tragedy of her life.

Although shaken by seeing Katsuo once again, Emi is determined to not let this affect her duty. However, things start to change as she discovers what it truly means to be the kamigakari and saves the life of Shiro – a kitsune – who should be her sworn enemy. Shiro now owes her a debt, and Emi needs to find a way to change her fate. However, is a single fox’s magic enough to stand up to the power of the gods?

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The Secret Commonwealth

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:

His Dark Materials:  Northern Lights | The Subtle Knife | The Amber Spyglass | Short Stories

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage

The Secret Commonwealth was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2019. The novel is the second part of The Book of Dust series, set 20 years after the events of La Belle Sauvage and seven years after The Amber Spyglass. The novel tells the continuing story of Lyra Silvertongue – heroine of the critically acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy – and so I would strongly advise that you read all four of the previous novels to have any idea of what is going on.

Lyra Silvertongue is now twenty years old and has a problem. She no longer likes her dæmon. Ever since Lyra began reading the work of two philosophers who deny the existence of dæmons, she and Pantalaimon have been arguing more and more. Lyra feels that Pan is too critical of things that he does not understand, while Pan feels that Lyra has lost the creativity that he admired in her as a child. The rift between them has led to Pan spending more time wandering alone at night. This is how he comes to witness a murder.

Pan is shocked to see two men savagely ambush another, but is drawn into a larger mystery as he and Lyra uncover the missing man’s belongings. The botanical samples and notes that he carried seem innocent enough at first, but as Lyra reads the man’s journal she uncovers an incredible story about a rose with mystical properties and the Blue Hotel – a place were only dæmons can go. When her room is overturned by others who are desperate to find this research, she learns that she has an unexpected friend in her former tutor, Malcolm Polstead – a man who she is connected to in ways she could never have imagined.

When a particularly vicious argument causes Pan to run away, Lyra is convinced that he must have gone in search of the Blue Hotel. Desperate to find him, she sets out on an epic journey across Europe and beyond. However, danger follows in her footsteps. People are naturally fearful of those who do not have dæmons, and villains from Lyra’s past are desperate to get hold of her in order to have their revenge…

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Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures

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:

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball | Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords | Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief | Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday

Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2019. It is a middle-grade fantasy story about the adventures of a young vampire and her monstrous friends. The novel forms the fifth instalment of the Amelia Fang series, following Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017), Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018), Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (2018) and Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (2019). Because of this, I would recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Amelia, Florence, Grimaldi, Tangine and Squashy have been invited to stay in the Ancient Yeti Pits to celebrate the 350th birthday of Florence’s Grand-Yeti. It’s not long before the party is in full swing, with plenty of dancing, presents and bumping bums. However, due to the excitement, Amelia is struggling to find time to break some bad news to Florence. The Pumpkineers’ Club is also having a party, and so Amelia will have to leave early if she wants to go.

Yet, it’s not long before strange things start happening in the Yeti pits. First, someone uses all of Tangine’s Everyking Sparkles cream. Then, the precious treasures belonging to the Yeti’s also start to vanish. Worse still, something goes wrong within the pits and the homes of the Yetis all begin to collapse.

If the mountain is declared unsafe, Amelia knows that it will mean that Florence and her family will potentially need to move away. Due to this, it’s up to the group to solve the mystery of just what is happening in the mountain and ensure that it can’t happen again. Yet, with the mountain falling apart around them, Amelia knows that they need to be fast and careful. One wrong step could mean that they are trapped underground forever…  More

The Bone Houses

The Bone Houses was written by Emily Lloyd-Jones and was first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story with horror elements, focusing on two teenagers who team up in order to stop an undead army. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it. It’s also currently only available to buy as an eBook in the UK, though the hardback is due to be released at the end of the month.

Ryn has struggled to keep her family together following her mother’s death and father’s disappearance. There is not a lot of work for a gravedigger in a village where the dead do not tend to stay buried. The forests beyond the village of Colbren are the domain of the Bone Houses – corpses that have been doomed to wander as the result of a faerie curse. Although the Bone Houses can be very dangerous, they have always been held back by the iron fence that surrounds Colbren. Unfortunately, this does not last.

Ellis has arrived in Colbren for a different reason. The young mapmaker has grown up in the lap of luxury, but has never known his true parents. Using his skills, money and influence, he has made the long journey in the hope of discovering his roots. However, when his arrival coincides with a particularly brutal attack, he finds himself teaming up with Ryn to find a way to stop the Bone Houses.

Their journey takes them deep into the forest and the mountains beyond, tracing the Bone Houses back to their birth place on lands once occupied by a ruthless fae king. Along the way, they also learn more about themselves and discover that their destinies are entwined with the restless dead in ways that they could never have imagined…

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