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 Summer of Middle Grade

Hi Everyone!

I hope that you are well. As I previously mentioned, my studies are currently getting in the way of my pleasure reading. Because of this, I don’t have a review prepared for this evening and so, unfortunately, I’m going to have to skip yet another post.

To make my life a little easier, I’ve decided to dedicate the next few posts to stories that are a little shorter and (hopefully) easier on my poor overworked brain. While I am currently reading through my next little block of Goosebumps books in preparation for the next trip down to Arkham Vaults, I have also popped into my local Waterstones and gathered a few exciting middle grade novels that I hope to also share with you over the next few weeks.

Here is an idea of what to expect next on Arkham Reviews:

Redwall by Brian Jacques

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Battle of the Beetles by M.G. Leonard

Normal service will resume in July, once my last exam is hopefully done and dusted.

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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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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Goosebumps 11-15

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:

1-5 | 6-10

Reader beware, it’s time to take another nostalgic look back at Goosebumps. If you haven’t checked out my previous two posts, this series was written by R.L. Stine and ran for sixty-two books between 1992 and 1997. The novels vary in themes and enjoy-ability but were all horror stories aimed at middle grade readers. For today’s review, I will be taking a look at books 11 to 15 (in the order that they were first released in the United Kingdom). Oh, and this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.

In The Haunted Mask, Carly Beth knows that she is easily scared but is furious that two boys in her class keep using this as a way to publicly embarrass her. When she finds a hideous and terrifying mask, she realises that she finally has a way to turn the tables on them. Trouble is, the mask makes her do horrible things and proves very difficult to take off…

In Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, Jerry is surprised to find an expensive piano in the attic of his new home but this soon turns to horror when he realises that it is haunted. His parents refuse to believe him and instead sign him up to piano lessons with the eccentric Dr Shreek. Although the teacher seems nice enough, he is oddly obsessed with Jerry’s hands. Could their be truth in the rumours that kids sometimes go for lessons at his school and never return?

In Be Careful What You Wish For, Samantha’s life is made miserable by the constant torment that she receives from Judith. However, when a strange woman offers Sam three wishes, she realises that she can use these to finally have her revenge. Yet when her first wish makes Judith seriously ill, Sam realises that perhaps she has gone too far. The woman takes her wishes very literally and so they can have horrible and unexpected consequences…

In The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, Grady is forced to move to a remote corner of Florida due to his parents’ research. Although the swamps around his home seem interesting, he soon learns of a terrifying local legend and supposed sightings of a terrible beast. When Grady’s pet dog, Wolf, is accused of being the beast, he knows that he has to prove his innocence. Yet where does Wolf run off to at night, and what is butchering the local wildlife?

In You Can’t Scare Me!, Eddie and his friends have grown sick of Courtney. The fact that she seems to be utterly fearless only serves to make Eddie look like even more of a wimp than he really is. Every plot that Eddie and his friends’ hatches to scare Courtney seems to backfire and make her look better still. However, Eddie soon comes up with the perfect plan to terrify Courtney with a local legend about the mud monsters of Muddy Creek. Trouble is, the legend might just be true…

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Queenslayer

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:

Spellslinger | Shadowblack | Charmcaster | Soulbinder

Queenslayer was written by Sebastien de Castell and first published in 2019. It is the fifth instalment of the Spellslinger series and tells the story of the continuing adventures of Kellen Argos and his business partner, Reichis the Squirrel Cat. The novel follows on shortly after Spellslinger (2017), Shadowblack (2017), Charmcaster (2018) and Soulbinder (2018) left off, so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

After unwittingly declaring treason against Darome, Kellen finds himself imprisoned and awaiting certain execution. However, as he is brought before the eleven-year-old Queen, he finds that fate has something else in store for him. Ginevra has supposedly inherited the souls of a thousand years of rulers, yet seems to be charmed by Kellen’s card playing. She names Kellen her new Tutor of Cards – a position that puts him above the law. Kellen is slow to realise that this places him in even more danger.

When Ginevra reaches the age of thirteen, she gains the full power of the throne. Sadly, there are some nobles in her court that do not wish for that to happen. Kellen soon realises that there is a delicacy to the proceedings within court. He is not in the Outlands anymore and instead is in a world where words have power and those who speak too loudly often meet with unfortunate accidents.

As Kellen is sent away to deal with a seemingly insignificant crime in a border town, he comes to realise just what a precarious position the queen is in. There are some who think that an eleven-year-old should not hold the throne and are willing to overthrow the entire city if it means ousting her from her position. Yet, as Kellen is approached once again by Shalla with a mission, he soon realises that the one to destroy Ginevra might well be him…

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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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Goosebumps 6-10

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the previous instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here].

It seems like a good time to take a second look back at R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps series. This collection of middle grade horror stories originally ran for sixty-two novels between 1992 and 1997 and, due to their incredible popularity, many are still in print today. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at novels six to ten only, reflecting the order that they were first released in the United Kingdom. Oh, and this is a retrospective look at the series, so there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

In Let’s Get Invisible, Max makes an amazing discovery in a hidden room within his attic – a mirror with the power to make anyone temporarily invisible. While this seems fun at first, he soon discovers that the object hides a dark secret. Something seems to be within the mirror, drawing him towards the glass, and it’s not long before he starts to have difficulty turning back to normal…

In Night of the Living Dummy, Kris becomes jealous after her sister discovers a ventriloquist dummy in her neighbour’s skip. Lindy names the dummy Slappy and starts to become popular as a local entertainer. However, when Kris gets a puppet of her own, things begin to get sinister. Kris’s dummy starts saying nasty things and everyone blames Kris. After all, a dummy can’t possibly have a mind of its own, can it?

In The Girl who Cried Monster, Lucy is always getting in trouble for telling her brother Randy tall tales about monsters. Due to this, no one will believe her when she does actually see one. Mr Mortman, the local librarian, turns into a horrible monster and eats bugs whenever the library closes. Trouble is, Mr Mortman suspects that Lucy knows his secret. How can Lucy save herself when everyone assumes that she is lying?

In Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Billy is disappointed to find that summer at Camp Nightmoon is not exactly what he expected. The Councillors have really lax health and safety standards, his parents never answer his letters and no one seems to care when kids disappear in the night. As one of Billy’s friends is attacked by a horrible monster, Billy realises that something sinister is going on. Just what secrets is Uncle Al hiding and can he escape before it is too late?

In The Ghost Next Door, Hannah’s boring summer holiday livens up when she meets her new neighbour. Danny is a little strange but seems nice enough. However, it’s not long before Hannah starts to notice just how pale he is – and how he has a habit of just vanishing into thin air. It’s obvious that Danny is far from normal, but could it be that he’s really a ghost? And what connection does he have to the mysterious shadowy figure that Hannah has seen around the town?

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This Spring on Arkham Reviews

Sorry readers. I have had a very busy and stressful couple of weeks and therefore have not had time to prepare my Wednesday review. However, that does mean that I can take the opportunity to give you a hint of what to expect on the next couple of weeks on Arkham Reviews.

At the moment, I am reading both Skyward by Brandon Sanderson and The X-Files: Ground Zero by Kevin J Anderson, so expect to see reviews of them very soon. After this, here are some more of my planned reviews to take us up to the summer!

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Flame and Fury by Lisa Gail Green

Battle of the Beetles by M.G. Leonard

Zeroes by Scott Westerfield

Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Dreamland by Robert L Anderson

The Girl Who Dared to Descend by Bella Forrest

Aiden’s Quest for Apollo by Tanvi Kesari Pasumarthy

The Stone of Kuromori by Jason Rohan

Goosebumps 1-5

Welcome to my new series of retrospective reviews! In these posts, I’m going to be slowly making my way through R.L. Stine’s classic Goosebumps series. Not including spin-offs and specials, this middle grade horror series was published between 1992 and 1997 and ran for sixty-two novels. Please note that, due to the age of this series, this post is likely to contain some spoilers. You have been warned. For the purpose of today’s review, I’m going to be looking at the first five books only. I’m also going to be reviewing this series in the order that they were released in the United Kingdom, which should be noted does differ slight from the order that it was originally released in the United States.

In Welcome to Dead House, Amanda and Josh are forced to move when their father inherits a creepy old house. While Amanda is immediately concerned by the horrifying visions that she has in her bedroom, she grows more worried still when she meets the strange children that live in her neighbourhood. They all seem oddly friendly and keen for her to stay with them. Forever.

In Say Cheese and Die!, Greg and his friends uncover a strange Polaroid camera when poking around an abandoned house. While he initially thinks it is broken, Greg soon discovers that the photos its takes might show the future. Yet, as the pictures begin to grow more sinister, Greg begins to grow concerned that the camera is actually evil. What if it is causing bad things to happen, rather than predicting them?

In Stay Out Of the Basement, Margaret and Casey begin to grow worried about their father when he loses his job and begins working from their basement. Suddenly, he has no time for them and forbids them from going near the odd plants that he is growing. Margaret grows more worried still when she notices that her father is eating plant food and starting to physically change. Just what are his experiments, and does he have plans for them?

In The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Gabe is excited to be spending Christmas with his archaeologist uncle, even if it means that he has to withstand his annoying cousin Sari. After all, how many kids get to explore hidden chambers deep within the Great Pyramid? However, things take a sinister turn when one of his uncle’s assistants tries to kidnap him. As he flees, he soon finds himself lost deep within the pyramid. It is here that he learns a gruesome secret, yet he might not live to tell the tale.

In Monster Blood, Evan is annoyed that he has to stay with his creepy Great-Aunt Kathryn. Not only is she old, but she’s also totally deaf. However, while exploring a local toy shop, he discovers something that seems more fun – a can of goo that seems to possess weird properties. However, when his dog eats some of the Monster Blood and starts to grow, Evan realises that something is weird about the ooze. Worse still, it seems to be growing and developing a mind of its own…

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