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

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life was written by Adrienne Kress and first published in 2019. It is a prequel story to the popular video game of the same name, focusing on a teenager in 1940s New York as he uncovers a sinister mystery at the animation studio where he works. The novel stands alone, though I would recommend playing the game first if you want to fully appreciate it.

Since the death of his father, Daniel “Buddy” Lewek has been the primary breadwinner for his family and struggles to make ends meet. However, his luck seems to change when he impresses Joey Drew – the owner of a local animation studio – and is offered a well-paid job as a go-fer. Buddy is eager to impress his new colleagues with his artistic talent as he dreams of one day becoming an animator himself.

However, something seems to be strange at the studios. Pipes full of ink run through the walls, some of the staff are behaving strangely and Mister Drew is developing something in secret – something that he believes will restore the failing studio to greatness. Although Buddy wants to believe in his new employer, he is starting to have his doubts. When he befriends a young scriptwriter called Dot, he slowly starts to uncover the unbelievable truth hidden in the depths of the studio.

When one of Buddy’s co-workers suddenly vanishes, Buddy realises that he is the only one that can save the studio. However, as he descends into its depths, he realises that Joey Drew Studios are not a place where dreams are made. It is a place of nightmares…

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Goosebumps 31-35

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30

It’s time for another trip down memory lane! In case you haven’t read any of my previous retrospectives, this is where I take a look at some of my childhood favourite series. Please note that these reviews will contain massive spoilers for the books in question. You have been warned.

Goosebumps is a hugely successful anthology of middle grade horror stories. It was written by R.L. Stine and the original series ran for sixty-two novels, all of which were published between 1992 and 1997. The series remains incredibly popular today, spawning numerous spin-offs, movies and video games. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to look at books 31 to 35 only. I’m also basing this on the order that they were released in the UK, as this does differ slightly to its US release order.

In Night of the Living Dummy II, Amy finds herself in trouble after her parents buy her a new ventriloquist dummy. As soon as Slappy arrives in her home, bad things start happening. Her sister’s paintings are ruined and her reputation as a ventriloquist is destroyed when a child is hurt during her act. Everyone thinks that Amy is responsible but she knows the truth. Slappy has a mind of his own and is determined to turn Amy into his slave…

In The Barking Ghost, Cooper often finds himself as the butt of his brother’s practical jokes due to the fact that he is afraid of everything. These fears turn out to be justified when he moves into a new house and is attacked by a pair of huge black dogs. Although his family claim to not see the dogs, it’s not long before they seem to be everywhere Cooper goes – even in his own home. It’s up to Cooper and his new friend, Fergie, to determine what they want before anyone gets hurt.

In The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, Wendy and Elliot find themselves stranded at a summer camp after a road accident separates them from their parents. Everything about the camp is weird – from the councillors’ obsession with winning at sports to their blobby purple mascot, King Jellyjam. As Elliot gets sucked in to the competitive atmosphere, Wendy desperately tries to find out what is going on. Because kids are disappearing from the camp every night, and if Wendy doesn’t hurry she knows that Elliot might be next…

In Revenge of the Garden Gnomes, Joe’s dad is obsessed with two things – growing better plants than his neighbour and collecting lawn ornaments. However, there is something strange about his latest two acquisitions. Every night, something is ransacking the two gardens and Joe soon finds himself blamed for the damage. Joe knows that it has something to do with the gnomes but, as he tries to catch them in the act, he soon finds that the creatures are a lot more malicious than it first seemed…

In A Shocker on Shock Street, Erin and Marty are excited to be the first two people to go on a tour of the set of their beloved “Shock Street” horror films. However, when the tram breaks down half way through the ride, they quickly realise that something is not quite right. The monsters seem to be more than just robots – they look and act as though they are real. Can Erin and Marty find their way off the tour or will they become prey for zombies and werewolves?

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In the Way of All Flesh

In the Way of All Flesh was written by Caitlin Alise Donovan and first published in 2019. It is an urban fantasy story that focuses on a teenage girl as she tries to cope with a frightening and isolating power. The novel stands alone, although does have the potential to form the first instalment of a longer series.

Manee Srikwan has a good reason to avoid her classmates. She wears gloves and long-sleeved clothing at all times as it is the only way to control her horrifying power. Whenever Manee makes physical contact with a person, even if it is just for a second, she has a vision of the way that person will eventually die. She also has a terrible fear that perhaps she is somehow the one that causes these messy and inescapable fates.

However, things start to change when she makes friends with Stephanie Pierce. Stephanie is confident, beautiful and out-going, and Manee quickly grows attracted to her. She also starts to grow more comfortable with her abilities as the two work together to prevent the death of one of her classmates. However, Manee’s happiness unfortunately can’t last.

When Manee accidentally touches Stephanie, she learns that her beloved will soon be murdered. Worse still, Manee sees that she will be the killer. Desperate to prevent this terrible fate, she breaks off their friendship and puts as much distance between her and Stephanie as she can. However, she has not counted on the fact that Stephanie also has skeletons in her closet, and will stop at nothing to get Manee back…

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D.O.G.S

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for S.T.A.G.S. You can read my review of this novel [here].

D.O.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and was first published in 2019. It is a young adult mystery novel, focusing on a teenage girl and her increasing involvement with a sinister secret society. The novel forms part of the second part of the S.T.A.G.S series, continuing shortly after S.T.A.G.S (2017) left off. Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to have any idea of what’s going on.

Greer MacDonald is trying her best to focus on her A Levels, but can’t quite get over the terrible things that happened at Longcross Hall. Although Henry was a monster she is still haunted by his death, and feels partially responsible for it. As a result, she has grown distracted from her studies. She can’t even think of a play to direct as part of her drama assessment.

Everything changes when a strange manuscript is posted under her bedroom door. The document is supposedly the first act of a lost play by Ben Jonson – The Isle of Dogs. This play carries with it a certain level of notoriety. After its first performance, a number of those involved with it were arrested and all copies were reportedly destroyed.

As Greer’s mysterious benefactor delivers more of the acts, she slowly begins to learn why the play was banned. However, it’s not long before she discovers that she will have to work for the play’s final pages. When she learns that the last act is hidden somewhere at Longcross Hall, she begins to suspect that someone close to her has ulterior motives. Could the Order of the Stag be trying to lure her into some kind of trap?

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Goosebumps 26-30

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25

For tonight’s review, I’m going to take a look at R.L. Stine’s original Goosebumps series. This ran for sixty-two novels which were all published between 1992 and 1997. Please be aware that this is a retrospective post, and therefore will contain spoilers for the novels in question. I should probably also note that I am working through this series in the order that the books were released in the United Kingdom, which does vary a little from their American release order.

In The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Michael is growing to hate his sister Tara. She is constantly getting him into trouble and goes out of her way to ruin his life. However, when his Dad brings home a strange new clock, Michael’s luck seems to turn around. The clock has the power to turn back time, allowing Michael a chance to save himself from Tara’s tricks. Trouble is, Michael has no idea how to stop the clock and every day he wakes up younger…

In Monster Blood III, Evan is having a hard time with his cousin, Kermit. Everyone thinks that Kermit is a genius but Evan knows that he just uses his weird formulas to cause trouble. When Andy suggests getting revenge by slipping the Monster Blood into Kermit’s latest experiment, Evan is reluctant but soon warms to the idea. Yet, when something goes wrong and Evan accidentally ingests the mysterious goo, he soon finds himself in really big trouble…

In Ghost Beach, Jerry and Terri are sent to stay with their distant cousins in their quaint cottage. At first, they have fun exploring the nearby beach, but everything changes when they discover the cave. The local kids seem to be terrified of it, claiming that a murderous ghost lives there, but Jerry is sceptical. He might not be able to explain the strange lights in the cave, but there is just something untrustworthy about the kids. Is the ghost real, or is something much stranger afoot?

In The Phantom of the Auditorium, Brooke and Zeke are excited to be cast as the leads in their school play. However, strange things have been happening. They discover a mysterious trapdoor in the stage that leads far beneath the school, and soon after start to find threatening messages. Everyone thinks that Zeke is to blame, but Brooke isn’t so sure. Could it actually be that the school is haunted?

In It Came from Beneath the Sink!, Kat and Daniel are excited to move into their new home, but things soon change when their dog finds the sponge. Although it looks ordinary enough, they are surprised to find it is alive. Worse still, bad things have started to happen to Kat and her family and, whenever they do, the sponge seems to grow more and more excited. Can Kat find out what the strange creature is before the accidents become fatal?

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Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone | Days of Blood and Starlight | Night of Cake and Puppets

Dreams of Gods and Monsters was written by Laini Taylor and first published in 2014. It is a fantasy story that tells the continuing tale of two star-crossed lovers, and the world-spanning war between their people. The novel forms the final part of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, following Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), Days of Blood and Starlight (2012) and Night of Cake and Puppets (2013). As it carries on directly where these previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Karou has finally managed to seize control of the chimaera from the shadows, but it has come at a terrible cost. Thiago the White Wolf has been destroyed but his body is now inhabited by the soul of gentle Ziri, the last of the Kirin. Still, this is a small victory for Karou as it has enabled her to broker a tenuous alliance with Akiva and his rebel faction of Misbegotten. Although their numbers are few, they finally have a chance at defeating Jael once and for all.

However, it will not be easy. With the help of Razgut, Jael has led his army through the gate to Earth. His hope is to gain access to the humans’ weapons of mass destruction, and with them a way to destroy the chimaera forever. Yet his arrival sparks chaos all over the world. For the first time, humans have irrefutable evidence that angels exist. When Ziri’s demonic-looking original body is then found buried in a traditionally Muslim country, this excitement quickly turns to violence.

As Karou and her friends battle to save the chimaera, something worse still is brewing. Bruises are growing in the sky over the Far Isles and the Stelians know that it is a sign that something terrible is coming. They have the power to contain the threat, but the only way that they can do so is by hunting down the one who is responsible…

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Mossflower

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

For tonight’s review, I think it’s time to take another nostalgic look at one of my childhood favourites. Redwall was an epic series of middle grade fantasy novels that was published between 1986 and 2011. It ran for twenty-one books and the series only ended due to the author’s death. The series focuses on a medieval society of woodland creatures, in which the good creatures are forced to fight against those that would enslave them. For the purpose of this review, I am going to be looking at the second book – Mossflower (1988) – only.

The creatures that live in Mossflower woods have long been oppressed by the wildcat king – Verdauga Greeneyes – who rules over them from the impenetrable fortress of Kotir. While their lives have always been hard, things are about to get worse when Verdauga is poisoned by his ambitious daughter, Tsarmina. The wily wildcat is quick to pin the crime on her brother, sentencing him to a life of imprisonment as she assumes her place as queen. Ruthless and psychotic, her first command is to crush any resistance and bring the creatures of Mossflower to heel.

It is truly fortunate for the woodlanders that Martin the Warrior happens to be passing by. When Tsarmina destroys his cherished sword and throws the mouse into Kotir’s dungeons, he swears that he will have his revenge. It is not long before he befriends Gonff – a light-hearted mouse thief – and through him learns of Corim (the Council of Resistance in Mossflower). When the rebels orchestrate a gaol break, Martin is more than happy to dedicate himself to their cause.

Yet victory will not be easy. Tsarmina has an army of rats, weasels, ferrets and stoats at her disposal, while the woodlanders are scattered and small in number. It will take a great leader in order to be able to unite them all and assure their victory. On learning of the location of the legendary badger lord – Boar the Fighter – Martin sets out with a small band of allies to find him. Yet they must hurry. Corim cannot remain hidden forever and, if Tsarmina finds them first, there will be no hope of victory…

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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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