A bit of magic, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance

TITLE = THE ZIGZAG EFFECT

AUTHOR = LILI WILKINSON

GENRE = MYSTERY, MAGIC, ROMANCE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8-10

Sage is new to Melbourne and pleased to find a job with a magician, as she hopes the funds will help pay for the photography course she has dreamed of completing. However, she does not bargain for falling into the middle of a mystery when the magician goes missing – nor does she expect to fall in love (maybe) with the aptly named, Herb (a magician-in-training who dreams of going solo one day). Add into the mix the beautiful but enigmatic Bianca (magician’s assistant) and a rival magician and the scene is sent for a wonderfully entertaining romp, in true ili Wilkinson style.

Fans of “A pocketful of Eyes” will love the Melbourne setting, the hint of a girl detective in the making and the heart-tugging beginnings of romance that are to be found between the covers of Lili Wilkinson’s latest book. And they will not be disappointed.  New fans are sure to be made as well – and readers are sure to be enlightened and engaged by the world og magic that they enter in this highly entertaining novel.

Recommended (dma) ****

A quirky gothic fantasy tale

TITLE = THE GRIMSTONES: Whirlwind (Book 3)

AUTHOR = ASPHYXIA

GENRE = GOTHIC, DIARY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a delightful story, part novel, part picture book, part diary. Martha Grimstone is the young child whose diary provides the story. She comes from an unusual family in an unusual gothic world. Her mother sews (and grieves for her dead husband) her grandfather is an apothecary (who weaves spells to heal illness and hopes to control the weather), her brother is a cute toddler with 3 legs and magical ability and her rather stern aunt is Martha’s teacher. Martha is inquisitive and perceptive. She desperately wants to help her family and is great at making plans for new ventures. Unfortunately her projects do not always turn out quite as she expected them to, often resulting in chaotic outcomes for both Martha and those around her.

This story is based on the puppet theatre created by the author, Asphyxia, so many of the illustrations are photos of the puppets and models that the puppeteer has created . As the story is told in dairy format, the pages do indeed look exactly like pages in a dairy – with Martha’s sketches and plans stuck in or taped down. These notes and drawings and the illustrations in general, add a visual depth and richness to the story, providing an air of credibility to a very gothic fantasy tale.

The rich illustrations complement the rich language and vocabulary of the story – providing a perfect match for the charming imagery. All in all, a delightfully quirky tale told in a delightfully quirky way.

Check out the author’s website for more info.about the author herself, her creations and her other books.

Highly Recommended (dma) ******

Cinderella revisited

TITLE = MOONLIGHT & ASHES

AUTHOR = SOPHIE MASSON

GENRE = FANTASY, FAIRY TALES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

This is a new version of the Cinderella fairytale which is sure to appeal to young readers. Like Cinderella, Selena finds herself reduced to being a servant girl for her father and his new wife after her own mother has died. Like Cinderella, Selena has two stepsisters who bully her. But unlike Cinderella, Selena has a magical past, she has a destiny which may well set her on a collision course with the young prince. Indeed, far from finding the royal heir to be a “Prince Charming”, Selena believes him to be a thoroughly unpleasant young man who may well be set to destroy her homeland.

If Selena’s heart has been stolen, it is certainly not by the prince but rather she may be falling for his bestfriend, Max, who the prince has thrown in gaol. Can the two work together to stay alive and save the kingdom or is it safer for Selena to work on her own??

An intriguing story that adds a touch of magic to an old favourite. Read more about the author here.

Recommended (dma) ***    

An exciting new fantasy novel

TITLE = THE MONSTER

SERIES = TROUBLE TWISTERS:

AUTHOR = GARTH NIX & SEAN WILLIAMS

GENRE= FANTASY, SUPERNATURAL, MAGIC

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This is an enchanting new book in the TroubleTwister series, perhaps even more enjoyable than the first one. Jaide and Jack are still living in Portland and learning their troubletwister craft. As you might expect from youngsters who are enthusiastic and curious about exploring their abilities at times they overstep the mark and take risks. Whilst they mostly work with good intentions, their inability to obey Granny’s instructions often leads them further down the path of trouble: but that is half of their name, after all!

There is a playfulness about some of the characters that quite neatly balances the darker elements in the story, especially the attacks from the monsters and other creatures. The train conductor’s weird and witty wordplay is one fine example whilst the twins rather unusual school teacher, Mr Carver (call me Heath) is another. Kleo and Ari the dignified and aloof cats again play a significant role in the action whilst Granny X continues to puzzle both the twins and the reader, with her legion of secrets. A great new fantasy book which is sure to delight younger readers.

Why not check out the website based around the book too.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

When a princess and a mage join forces …

DRAGON OF TRELIANTITLE = THE DRAGON OF TRELIAN

AUTHOR = Michelle Knudsen

GENRE = FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Junior fantasy lovers are sure to enjoy this novel, although the dragon appears in the story far less than may be expected by the title. Calen is learning to be a mage but he is finding that his teacher can be a hard taskmaster and that life in the palace can be somewhat lonely. That is until he meets the feisty Princess Meg, who just happens to have in hiding a young dragon. The two become friends as they try to learn more about dragon-rearing and unravel the magical link between Meg and her dragon, although they must hide their friendship from both Calen’s teacher and Meg’s parents. Life becomes even more complicated when they uncover a plot to kill Meg’s sister who is about to marry a neighbouring prince. Can they defeat forces more powerful than themselves?? Will they even be believed?? And who can they trust?? The action in the second half of the novel certainly moves at a fast rate. Readers are sure to find the ending satisfying, especially as it leaves the way open for a sequel.

Recommended (dma) ****

An exciting sequel

red gloveTITLE = RED GLOVE

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 9 AND UP

This sequel to “White Cat” will delight and satisfy those readers who loved the first book in “The Curse Workers” series. The hero of the story (Cassel Sharpe) again has to live up to his family name and stay sharp if he wants to stay one step ahead of those who wish to ensnare him. At the book’s opening his holidays have been spent with his mother, who, having been freed from jail, simply picks up her conning routine where she left off before her prison stay – and she seems to expect Cassel to play along with this (even if he gets beaten up in the process). So a return to school should make Cassel’s life easier; until he discovers that Lila (the cursed love of his life) has enrolled and that the Feds are after him!! Life becomes even more complicated when he learns his brother Philip has died  and the Feds want Cassel’s help in solving the murder.

curse workers badgeOnce again, Cassel learns that family can’t always be trusted. And between the Feds, his own sense of guilt over past crimes, and the looming threat of crime families who want to make use of his cursing abilities, Cassel has his work cut out for him just staying one step ahead of the game. Add to this the complications in his relationship with both Lila and his new found friends, Sam and Daneca, and it is no wonder that Cassel is feeling exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed. But if he can’t trust others, surely he can trust himself??? Or maybe not. C

Cassel is a brilliant creation. Flawed yet with an inner core of integrity that he can’t quite acknowledge, Cassel is all too aware of his weaknesses and struggles to control his destiny, his love life and his innate conning abilities. Holly Black is a master craftswoman as she manages to twist and turn her story in unexpected ways and just as Cassel (and the reader) feels he is once again in control – the rug is well and truly pulled out from beneath him! The ending is both satisfying, credible and more importantly, has set the stage for a thrilling conclusion in the eagerly awaited next book in the series. An absolute gem of a book – Holly Black has taken the fantasy novel into new and exciting territory.

View the book trailer for “Red Glove” here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A magical Steampunk war – 1

Moment of Truth (Quark 7):Layout 1TITLE = MOMENT OF TRUTH (The Laws of Magic. Bk 5)

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = FANTASY, MAGIC, STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 AND UP

There may be new covers, but the adventure of “The Laws of Magic” series continues unabated in this breathtaking new episode. When war is finally declared, Aubrey and George decide to enlist and find themselevs being trained as spies. Before long, the old trio is back in business when Caroline joins the team and they set off on their first mission. But as we have come to expect from Aubrey and his friends, what was meant to be a relatively straightforward mission soon becomes excitingly dangerous and wonderfully inventive. Old foes will be met and new battles will be fought. But what will Aubrey do if he is forced to choose between the girl of his dreams and treason against his beloved country?? Will any of them survive their latest adventures?? And what about affairs of the heart for both our intrepid hero and his stalwart friend, George??

This wonderful new episode lives up to past volumes in the series and will leave the reader impatiently awaiting the sixth and final volume. For Aubrey may be setting out on his most dangerous journey yet …. will he survive without the support of his two most loyal friends. And if he does, what reception will await him if he manages to make it home??

Another glorious steampunk adventure from Michael Pryor filled with cracking action, lots of magic and wry humour… not to be missed.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

To learn abo0ut some of the earlier books in the series, why not check out earler posts on “Blaze of Glory” (Book 1) or  “Heart of Gold” (Book 2). Or read more about the birth of the series from Michael himself – all the new covers are on display here, too. (Took me a while to warm to the new cover but en masse they look great!)

The Magical Journey continues

heart of goldTITLE = HEART OF GOLD

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 8 AND UP

After surviving magical and political intrigue in Blaze of Glory, Aubrey and his friends are soon in the thick of things again, in this second volume in “The Laws of Magic” series. Aubrey sets of for Lutetia, initially for a pleasant holiday break from his studies. But he has been given an array of family and political responsibilities to perform whilst on his travels: his grandmother wants him to return some old love letters, his cousin (Prince Albert) wants him to research the family history and his father has some important political affairs for Aubrey to deal with. Thankfully, his friends George and Caroline are there to help him along the way, and their help is invaluable. Because they soon discover that some deep magic is being used to steal peopl’s souls and the country is teetering on the brink of destruction. Aubrey will need all his magical prowess just to survive, let alone save anyone else. But will saving the world come at a personal cost? Readers who enjoyed the first novel in this magical series will be entralled all over again when they turn the opening pages of this new novel by Michael Pryor. Apart from being action packed, there is the same delightful humour woven throughout the story. The world of this novel is a wonderful mix of magic and mayhem, scientific and linguistic conundrums. A great read.

Why not check out a Book Trailer for this novel?

Highly Recommended (dma): *****

Where Magic meets Science

blaze of glory bigTITLE = BLAZE OF GLORY

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 PLUS

What an entertaining journey we take when we start reading this novel, the first in “The Laws of Magic” series. Set in another time and place (which sounds mysteriously like pre WW1 England) and with one of the best opening lines you could want to read – this novel sets off at a cracking pace. Our hero, young Aubrey has a lot on his plate: he desperately wants to live up to the high standards set by his father (sucessful politician and war hero, Darius), he needs to try and save his country and there is the small matter of his own soul, which he is in constant danger of losing-so death literally stalks him. On top of this, he just may be falling for the amazing Caroline! Just as well his stalwart friend, George, is covering his back. One of the joys of this fantasy novel is the gently ironic and often quite humorous narrative style employed by Michael Pryor. “Blaze of Glory” is a joy to read. Lovers of fantasy will enjoy the world of this novel where magic is treated like a science and the lingustics behind spell development are explored. There is plenty of political intrigue for readers to enjoy, too. All in all, a treat for readers – especially when we know that there are already another 3 books to follow this one. Move over Harry Potter!

And if you want to find out about more great fantasy reads why not chack out the House of Legends site.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****