This Summer on Arkham Reviews

Hi-diddly-hi Neighbour-inos!

I hope that you’re all having as good of a summer as you can under current circumstances. Now that my little season of middle grade reviews is done and dusted, it’s time to return to business as usual here on Arkham Reviews. Over the coming week, I plan to take a look at the fourth Fazbear Frights collection of short stories and also write up the next part of my Point Horror retrospective. After that, here’s an idea of what you can look forward to over the next couple of months:

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

F.O.X.E.S by M.A. Bennett

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

The Haven by Simon Lelic

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Deception by Teri Terry

The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Uki and the Outcasts

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

Uki and the Outcasts was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story, set in our far future when humans are extinct and rabbits are the dominant species on the planet. The novel is the fourth instalment of The Five Realms series and follows Podkin One-Ear (2016), The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) and The Beasts of Grimheart (2018).

As the Bard continues his journey north, his is approached by another figure from his past and Rue starts to learn that there is more about his mentor than he ever could have imagined. The Bard is a member of a secret society called the Foxguard who exist to protect the world from a sinister cult who are known as the Endwatch. As rumours of cultist activity emerge, the Bard and Rue are forced to head across the icy wastes to investigate.

As they travel, the Bard begins a new tale about a hero who once also had to face the Endwatch. Uki was mistreated by his clan due to the fact that he was born with half-black, half-white fur. When an incident within the tribe leads to his injury, Uki and his mother are forced to flee into the wilds where they will surely die. Luckily, Uki’s life is saved by a mysterious spirit from a different time. Iffrit binds himself to Uki, giving him new powers, but needs something in return.

Iffrit was once a gaoler, but the four evil spirits that were imprisoned with him have now escaped. Uki needs to travel the world in order to recapture them, before they can spread war, plague, famine and death across the lands. He soon gains help from Jori, an assassin exiled from her clan because she will not kill, and Kree, an abnormally small rabbit who rides a tailless jerboa. But will three outcast rabbits be enough to take down an ancient evil?

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OwlCrate Unboxing – July 2020

Wow, my OwlCrate arrived a lot earlier than expected this month. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I told you all about the June crate! Anyhow, in case this is the first of my unboxings that you’ve read, let me tell you a bit about where all my goodies came from.

OwlCrate is a subscription service for fans of Young Adult novels. Each month, they send out a carefully curated box which contains 3-5 items, all selected to match a specific theme. In addition to this, each box is guaranteed to contain a hard-backed book, usually signed by the author and with a unique cover. The boxes are priced at around £38, which seems very reasonable due to the high quality goodies that they contain. So long as your subscription remains active, you are guaranteed to receive every box. Be wary of cancelling though – they do have a long waiting list and it can be a pain to get back on again!

Anyhow, this month’s theme is “Date With Destiny”. Be warned – there are lots of photos and massive spoilers beyond this point…

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School for Nobodies

School for Nobodies was first published in 2020 and is Susie Bower’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story for young readers which focuses on a girl who travels to a mysterious boarding school in search of her missing twin. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It was not until her tenth birthday that Flynn finally learned her real name. After a fire killed her parents and left her scarred, she was forced to live with Sonia and Claude – two well-off adults who only adopted her to look generous. Things change when she receives the note on her birthday, revealing that she actually has a twin who is attending an nearby affluent boarding school.

Flynn orchestrates a way to force her adoptive parents to send her to that same school, but things go horribly wrong when they instead send her to the run-down school next door. The Cruet Establishment for Lost and Wayward Children is a reform school for children who prove difficult to handle. Students are stripped of their names and belongings until they earn the right to have them back. They also are forbidden to make any kind of contact with the neigbouring school children.

Flynn is determined to find a way to get to her twin, yet things seem to be impossible. However, that’s before she encounters the crow. The crow seems sinister but promises that it can unite the two of them on a special day, when a gateway between the two schools opens. Yet can she trust the crow, and will she possibly be able to get away from her horrible classmates?

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The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency was written by L.D. Lapinski and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade fantasy story that focuses on a 12-year-old girl who discovers a way to travel to parallel dimensions. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, but at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Felicity “Flick” Hudson is deeply unhappy. Her parents have just moved from the city to the small town of Little Wyverns and do not seem to have much time for her. All Flick wants to do is travel and see the world, but she’s stuck spending most of her time looking after her baby brother while her parents are working. Luckily for Flick, she soon stumbles across a mysterious travel agency which could give her everything that she has ever dreamed of.

Jonathan Mercator is only eighteen but has been single-handedly running The Strangeworlds Travel Agency since his father’s disappearance. Unlike regular travel agents, he curates a vast collection of suitcases which each contain a portal to another world. Magically gifted individuals are free to borrow a suitcase, so long as they report back on what they have discovered. Jonathan quickly realises that Flick is more than eligible to join their ranks.

While Flick and Jonathan’s early adventures seem harmless enough, they soon realise that something is wrong with the multiverse. The balance between worlds has been disrupted and all issues seem to be stemming from Five Lights – a city at the centre of it all. If they can’t find a way to fix Five Lights soon, the entire multiverse could collapse and destroy everything, including Flick’s world!

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OwlCrate Unboxing – June 2020

As predicted, the June OwlCrate finally graced my doorstep this week. Hooray! At least that gave me plenty of time to sample all of its contents before writing up this review.

For those of you who haven’t seen any of my previous posts, OwlCrate is a monthly subscription service for fans of Young Adult novels. The boxes are usually dispatched around the 20th of each month and contain 3-5 items which are carefully selected to match a theme. Each box is also guaranteed to contain one brand new hardback, which is usually autographed and with an exclusive cover. Each box costs around £38 to ship to the United Kingdom and, so far, I do feel that they have all been great value for money.

OwlCrate guarantees that you will receive each box so long as your subscription remains active. I would strongly recommend thinking very carefully before you cancel, as the service is very popular and boxes tend to sell out quickly. I made this mistake last summer and it took me a few months to get back on the list again…

Anyhow, the theme this month is “All the World’s a Stage”. Be warned – there are a lot of photos and major spoilers for the box’s contents beyond this point…

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The Summer of Middle Grade 2020

Hi everyone! I hope that you’re keeping safe and well!

As I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo over this month, I found myself hankering to read something a little lighter. Due to this, it’s the perfect time to announce this year’s Summer of Middle Grade event! As I had a great time reviewing a selection of great summer reads for young readers last year, I thought it would be fun to do the same again!

Here is what to look forward to over the next few weeks. There will probably be another Owlcrate unboxing as well, if my June box turns up promptly!

The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

The Impossible Boy by Ben Brooks

School for Nobodies by Susie Bower

Uki and the Outcasts by Kieran Larwood

Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns

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

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

Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2020. It tells the continuing adventures of a young vampire, as she this time tries to prove that she is responsible enough to care for a new baby. The novel follows Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017), Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018), Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (2018), Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (2019) and Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures (2019). Although the novels do stand alone fairly well, I would certainly recommend reading them in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Everyone in the Fang household is excited that Countess Frivoleeta will soon be having her second child. Amelia can’t wait to meet her little brother or sister and introduce her to everyone she cares about – especially Florence the Yeti, Grimaldi Reaperton, Prince Tangine and Squashy, her pet pumpkin. Yet there is so much that still needs to be done around the house, and things have been made more complicated by the fact that they have agreed to look after three caticorns while the Countess’s sister is away.

When the baby makes an unexpected arrival, Amelia agrees to take responsibility over the caticorns so that her mother can rush to hospital. It shouldn’t be a problem for her. Gerrard, Butler and Mo are all so well-behaved and Amelia is keen to prove that she will be a responsible older sister. However, as soon as the adults leave, the caticorns prove to be more than a handful. Even with the help of her friends, Amelia soon finds that she is in over her head.

While Amelia was excited to take care of the adorable creatures, she suddenly begins to have her doubts. Why do they seem to hate her so much, and what will she do if the new baby feels the same? However, she knows that she’s got to get to the bottom of why the caticorns are behaving so badly. If she doesn’t, they will completely destroy the house before her parents get home!

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Incendiary

Incendiary was written by Zoraida Córdova and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy novel set in a world where a puritanical king has virtually hunted magic users to extinction. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Most of Andalucía has fallen under the control of a tyrant. King Fernando of Puerto Leones has gradually expanded his empire to take over the surrounding kingdoms. Yet Memoria has been hit harder than most. The Moria were once formidable magic users, but Fernando’s Justices have largely wiped them out. From the ashes of Memoria has formed a rebel faction – the Whispers – who have dedicated themselves to protecting their surviving people and bringing an end to Fernando’s reign.

Renata Convida longs to be recognised by the Whispers, but it seems like they will always view her as a traitor. Not only is she a rare Robári – a memory thief – but she also was once the property of Justice Méndez. Although she was just a child at the time, her people have not forgotten the fact that she once sold them out to the Justices in exchange for sweets and favours, and are always quick to remind her of this fact.

When a mission goes wrong and Renata’s captain and love is taken prisoner by the enemy, she knows that she must do everything in her power to save him. Even if that means returning to the capital and Méndez’s care once again. Her goal is to have her revenge against the monarchy by killing the King’s heir – a bloodthirsty monster called Castian – and destroying a weapon that he has created which supposedly strips Moria of their powers. Yet, as she spends more time in the palace, she begins to uncover an unexpected mystery with the Prince at its centre. Just what is going on, and how are the Whispers connected?

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The Smoke Thieves

The Smoke Thieves was written by Sally Green and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy novel that is set in a world where three nations are on the brink of war. The novel is the first part of The Smoke Thieves Trilogy and is followed by The Demon World (2019). The final instalment of the series – The Burning Kingdoms – is due for release later this year.

Princess Catherine of Brigant is preparing for her marriage to Prince Tzsayn of Pitoria – a man that she has never met. The only good thing that she can see coming from this union is that she will be finally free of her warmongering father, King Aloysius. However, she cannot stand the thought of being separated from her beloved guard, Ambrosius. She knows that if her father ever discovered the true extent of her feelings towards Ambrosius, they would both be executed for treason. However, it is becoming harder and harder to hide her affection.

Meanwhile, in Pitoria, two survivors of the destruction of Abask are hunting for the illegitimate heir of Calidor. March and Holywell are determined to have their revenge against King Thelonius of Calidor and what better way to do so then to sell his only surviving son to King Aloysius? However, when March finally meets Edyon Foss he is shocked to find that he actually likes the young thief. Yet their journey grows more complicated as their paths cross with two demon hunters – Tash and Gravell – and Edyon steals a vial of their illegal demon smoke.

As Catherine, Ambrosius, March, Edyon and Tash’s destinies slowly entwine, a greater conspiracy in afoot. King Aloysius is training an army of boys and has purchased vast amounts of demon smoke. Catherine and her allies need to figure out what he is up to quickly, before the tyrant king finds a way to take over the whole world…

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