Wildspark

Wildspark was written by Vashti Hardy and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story which focuses on a young girl’s mission to save her deceased brother’s spirit. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When Francis died, Prue Haywood thought that she would never be happy again. However, this was before she learned about the Personifates. A secretive guild in Medlock have discovered the secret to capturing the spirits of the dead and binding them to animal machines, giving them a second chance at life. When a member of that guild comes to her farm seeking Francis as his apprentice, Prue is quick to take advantage. Taking on her brother’s identity, she assumes her place as a new student at the guild.

However, bringing back Francis will not be easy. Competition at the Factorium is fierce and only the best will eventually become craftsmen. The process of becoming a Personifate also wipes the second-lifer’s memory, so Prue will have to find a way to get the ghost machines to recall their past lives if she wants her brother to be the way he was.

Yet saving Francis may not be Prue’s most pressing problem. On the night of the Blood Moon, the guild plans to animate a hundred Personifates to show off their technology. However, there are people who do not wish for this to happen. When a Personifate is ripped apart in the woods, Prue and her friends realise that something dangerous is stalking the night. What she does not realise is that this creature has the power to completely change the status quo…

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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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Goosebumps 16-20

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 | 11-15

Sorry for the delays. Exam preparation has taken over my life but, fingers crossed, it will be all over on Thursday evening!

Anyhow, today I’m going to be taking a look at the next five Goosebumps books. In case you missed my last few reviews, this middle grade horror series was written by R.L. Stine and ran for sixty-two novels, all published between 1992 and 1997. The series proved so popular that many of these stories are still in print today, and it also spawned a television series, two movies, six video games and a number of spin-off books. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to be looking at books 16 to 20 only. Oh, and there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

In One Day in HorrorLand, Lizzy and Luke’s family find themselves lost on a day trip but are enticed by signs to a remote theme park – HorrorLand. When a disaster forces them to remain at the park, it all initially seems to be good fun. The park takes its horror theme seriously, with rides such as the Doom Slide and the Coffin Cruise, but it’s not long before Lizzy realises the truth. The attractions are all dangerous and the costumed “Horrors” who patrol the park may be more than just mascots…

In Why I’m Afraid of Bees, Gary wishes that he could just get away from his life. His sister hates him, bullies target him and he is terrified of his neighbour’s apiary. When he comes across a company that enables you to take a holiday away from yourself by switching bodies with another person, it seems like it’s too good to be true. Yet when something goes wrong with the transfer and Gary finds himself trapped in the body of a bee, he realises that his old life was not so bad. But what can he possibly do to free himself when his body’s new occupant is reluctant to give it up?

In Monster Blood II, Evan is having a hard time fitting into his new school. He is still traumatised by his experience with the Monster Blood, yet his new classmates won’t believe his “wild” stories. When Andy stops by for a visit and brings a can of the mysterious slime with her, Evan is horrified. After what happened last time, he can’t believe his friend would be so reckless. Yet when Cuddles, the class hamster, starts to grow, he realises that Andy must be responsible. How can they possibly stop the monstrous rodent, and what will they do when it is too big for its cage?

In Deep Trouble, Billy and Sheena love visiting their uncle on their holidays. He is a marine biologist so they get to spend their summer swimming from his boat and learning about his research. Yet, as a local aquarium approaches their uncle with an offer, Billy realises this holiday will be the most exciting yet. There are rumours of nearby mermaid sightings and the park will give his uncle a huge reward if he catches one. Yet Evan soon learns that there are less scrupulous people who are also interested in the mermaid and makes it his mission to stop the fantastical creature from falling into the wrong hands.

In Go Eat Worms!, Todd is fascinated by worms to the point of obsession. He loves cutting them in half and terrorising his sister with them. Yet, it’s not long before the worms start to fight back. Soon, Todd starts to find them everywhere – in his bed, in his hat, and even in his lunch. At first he thinks that it might be his sister looking for revenge, but he soon realises that there must be more to it then that. The worms are coming for him, and nothing he can do seems to appease them…  More

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 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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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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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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