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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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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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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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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Atlantia

Sorry for the delay in posting this one. I’m currently studying for an exam so please note that my reviews may be a bit sporadic over the next month or so. All being well, normal service should resume at the start of July…

Atlantia was written by Ally Condie and first published in 2014. It is a dystopian science fiction story set in a world where people have been forced to retreat to an undersea city. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

When the air grew too polluted to breathe, people were forced to make a terrible sacrifice. Some chose to remain above, working hard and dying young. This ensured that their loved ones had all they needed to survive below. Atlantia – the underwater city – is beautiful and those who live there know they are blessed. Yet still some from every generation must still choose to travel to the surface to ensure that Atlantia can continue to be.

Rio has dreamed of being the one to make the sacrifice. Atlantia has always felt too claustrophobic for her and she longs to see real trees. However, when her sister Bay chooses to go above, Rio realises that she will never get her chance. One member of each bloodline must always remain below. Not only has Bay doomed Rio to a life under the sea with no explanation, but she has also left her all alone.

Yet Rio will not accept her fate and begins to desperately search for a way to get to the surface. Yet she soon discovers that she must hurry. Something is going wrong with Atlantia and if she does not leave soon, she may not get another chance. To make matters worse, she has a terrible secret. She is a Siren – one blessed with the ability to control others with their voice – and there are certainly those who would use this to their advantage…

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Finale

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:

Caraval | Legendary

Finale was written by Stephanie Garber and first published in 2019. It is the final instalment of the Caraval Trilogy and tells continuing story of Scarlett and Donatella Dragna, as they fight to find a way to stop the cruel Fates from taking control of the Meridian Empire. As the novel follows on shortly after Caraval (2017) and Legendary (2018), I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

When Legend risked everything to free Tella from a cursed Deck of Destiny, she thought that it meant that he loved her. However, although Legend still regularly visits her in her dreams, she knows that it is not true. Immortals cannot feel love, only obsession, and she knows that she will never be happy unless she severs their relationship.

Similarly, Scarlett is having difficultly deciding who her suitor should be. Although she is passionately in love with Julian, she still wants to give Count Nicholas d’Arcy a fair chance. However, her courtship is interrupted when she stumbles across a horrible scene – one that proves that the Fates have also been released from the deck.

The Fates are powerful and dangerous, taking pleasure in treating humans as toys. However, it is not long before Scarlett and Tella learn that they have a weakness. If they are able to kill the original Fate – The Fallen Star – the rest will lose their immortality. However, the Fallen Star’s one weakness is a closely guarded secret. Will Scarlett and Tella be prepared to risk everything to destroy him, even if doing so risks all chance that they have at future happiness?

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