Book Review: The Queen’s Resistance

The Queen’s Resistance – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Resistance #2 – HarperTeen – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

Finally, Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is settling into her role as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn, a disgraced lord who returned to Maevana to reclaim his house. Though she’d just survived a revolution, one that will finally return a queen to the throne, she faces another difficult challenge. She must prove herself trustworthy to the MacQuinns. But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s house as well as her country. And then there’s Cartier, a wholly separate but desirable factor in her new life.

Aodhan Morgane, formerly known as Cartier Évariste, is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia as a master of knowledge and his current one as the lord of a fallen house. During his castle’s restoration, he discovers a ten-year-old boy named Tomas, whose past and parentage are a complete mystery. So when Cartier’s former pupil Brienna is as taken with Tomas as he is, he lets his mind wander—what if he doesn’t have to raise him or his house alone?

As the Lannon trial rapidly approaches, Brienna and Cartier must put their feelings aside to concentrate on forging alliances, executing justice, and ensuring that no one interferes with the queen’s coronation. But resistance is rumbling among the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces. And nothing makes a person more vulnerable than deep-seated love.

My thoughts

Stunning. Truly beautiful and heart-capturing, The Queen’s Resistance is an epic sequel to The Queen’s Rising and everything I was daring to hope it would be. The Queen’s Rising was my surprise book of 2018. Surprise, because it totally took me by surprise with how amazing it was, how much I enjoyed it, and the beauty of the world Rebecca Ross created. So, the sequel, The Queen’s Resistance instantly became one of my most anticipated reads for 2019. And it did not disappoint. The Queen’s Resistant is stunning. It is beautifully crafted, the threads of intrigue, alliances, betrayal and deception are carefully woven with strands of love, family, justice and a thrilling quest to right the wrongs of the past. This is by far one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, and I can not recommend it highly enough.

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Book Review: Rise of the Dragons

Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage – Rise of the Dragons #1 – Scholastic Press – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

Once our world was full of dragons who lived in harmony with humans. But after a group of rogue dragons, the Raptors, tried to take over Earth, all dragons were banished to another realm.

Most humans forgot about the dragons, claiming they never existed. Eleven-year-old Sirin knows the truth — she grew up with stories passed down through the generations. However, when her mother falls ill, even Sirin has trouble believing in magic . . . until she sees a mysterious streak of silver in the night sky.

Sirin becomes the first child to “lock” with a dragon in centuries — forming a deep friendship unlike anything she’s ever imagined. But Sirin learns that not all dragons returned with good intentions, and soon she finds herself at the center of a battle between the dragons who want to protect the humans . . . and those who want to destroy them.

My thoughts

I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.

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Book Review: The Blood Spell

The Blood Spell – C.J. Redwing – Ravenspire #4 – Balzer+Bray – Published 12 February 2019

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Synopsis

Blue de la Cour has her life planned: hide the magic in her blood and continue trying to turn metal into gold so she can help her city’s homeless. But when her father is murdered and a cruel but powerful woman claims custody of Blue and her property, one wrong move could expose her—and doom her once and for all. The only one who can help? The boy she’s loathed since childhood: Prince Kellan.

Kellan Renard, crown prince of Balavata, is walking a thin line between political success and devastating violence. Newly returned from boarding school, he must find a bride among the kingdom’s head families and announce his betrothal—but escalating tension among the families makes the search nearly impossible. He’s surprised to discover that the one person who makes him feel like he can breathe is Blue, the girl who once ruined all his best adventures.

When mysterious forces lead to disappearances throughout Balavata, Blue and Kellan must work together to find the truth. What they discover will lead them to the darkest reaches of the kingdom, and to the most painful moments of their pasts. When romance is forbidden and evil is rising, can Blue save those she loves, even if it costs her everything?

My thoughts

The Blood Spell is the fourth book in C.J. Redwine’s series of fairytale retellings. As she has with each of the three previous instalments, The Blood Spell is a wonderful fantasy novel in its own right with threads of the familiar fairytale cleverly woven through the plot to create a unique and thrilling tale.

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Book Review: Circle of Shadows

Circle of Shadows – Evelyn Skye – Circle of Shadows #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 22 January 2019

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Synopsis

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied behind his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging to the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group.Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

My thoughts

Circle of Shadows is the first book in a new fantasy series by Evelyn Skye. Despite the intriguing synopsis, I did not enjoy Circle of Shadows as I anticipated I would. While the latter half of the book is more engaging with a quickly moving plot, the first half of the book is slow, with little action to grab my attention. A juvenile writing style more befitting a different kind of story, characters with quickly changing motives and a lack of explanation for the magic in this book meant I never became invested in the characters nor their quest.

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Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 January 2019

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Synopsis

Prince Rhen is cursed. He spurned the wrong woman and is now forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until he can convince another to love him. His fate would be bearable, but at the end of every season, he transforms into a dangerous monster. After his subjects learned to fear the castle on the hill, Rhen sent Grey, the last member of his guard, to find young women in other worlds.

Harper is cursed by reality. Her father left and her mother is losing her fight with cancer. When Harper sees Grey abducting a woman from the streets of D.C., she intervenes, only to get sucked into Rhen’s world. Now, Harper is trapped. But when Harper proves to be more than just another girl to charm, Rhen realizes he can do more than break the curse . . . he can save his kingdom once and for all.

My thoughts

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an absolutely incredible fantasy novel. Fantastical, thrilling, unique, and so very cleverly plotted, I was entranced from the first page to the last. I love Brigid Kemmerer’s writing and all her books, so I knew I would enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I was totally blown away. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is the very best retelling of this, my favourite, fairytale I have ever read – and I have read a few. It is clever, original and, well, I’m seriously impressed.

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Book Review: War of Storms

War of Storms – Erica Cameron – Ryogan Chronicles #3 – Entangled:Teen – Published 5 November 2018

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Synopsis

Khya arrived at the Ryogan coast too late to stop the invasion. Now, cities are falling before the unrelenting march of an enemy army, and Khya’s squad is desperately trying to stay ahead of them. Warning the Ryogans, though, means leaving her brother imprisoned even longer. Time is running out for everyone.

But how can her squad of ten stand against an army of ten thousand?

Calling in help from every ally she’s made in Ryogo, Khya tries to build a plan that won’t mean sacrificing her friends or her brother. It’s a tough balance to find, especially when the leadership role she thought she wanted sits heavy on her shoulders, and her relationship with Tessen is beginning to crack under the strain.

The end is coming, and there’s no way to know who’ll be left standing when it hits.

My thoughts

War of Storms is the third and final instalment of the Ryogan Chronicles, an action packed, diverse and thrilling fantasy series. The Ryogan Chronicles is a unique and highly enjoyable series, and War of Storms is a brilliant third book, providing the ultimate climax and conclusion to the ongoing story of a fight for freedom and truth.

Khya and her friends have crossed oceans and visited strange lands, pushing their knowledge of the world, skills and endurance to the very limit in a bid to remove Varan and the other immortals from power and save their friends and family and the rest of Ryogan from their wrath. Now armed with a deadly secret that could give them an edge over the ruthless ruler, they must make a final stand and hope that their few numbers and allies can win against Varan’s army.

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Book Review: Ogre Enchanted

Ogre Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 16 October 2018

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Synopsis

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

My thoughts

Ogre Enchanted is as enchanting and humorous as its predecessor Ella Enchanted, and will delight old fans and new readers alike. Ogre Enchanted is a modern-day fairytale, with a strong and independent lead character, and threads of friendship and romance. Simple and unique, this twist on a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast will delight (and possibly disgust) young readers.

Evie, though only fifteen, is a gifted healer. Her passions are herbs, healing tonics and devoted attention to her patients. In Wormy, Evie has a dear friend and willing subject upon whom she tests all her new cures and tonics. But when Wormy proposes, Evie is quick to turn him down – she has no intention of marrying young. Unfortunately the fairy Lucinda hears Evie’s refusal and transforms Evie into a hideous, very smelly and eternally hungry ogre as punishment. Evie has just 62 days to accept another proposal or she will remain an ogre forever.

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Book Review: Damsel

Damsel – Elana K. Arnold – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts

A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation.

From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon.

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Book Review: West

West – Edith Pattou – East #2 – HMH Books – 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

My thoughts

West is a delightful fantasy novel, gorgeously pieced together with adventure and folklore it is sure to please fans of East and new readers alike.

East (though it will always be North Child to me) is one of my most favourite books. I love its beautiful writing, elegant and so very imaginative in its simplicity. I love the fairytale remix. I love the strength of Rose, her curiosity, wandering spirit and determination. I love the short chapters written from the perspectives of multiple characters which detail the story. I love the White Bear and I love Rose’s love for him. And so, when a sequel was announced, some 15 years after the publication of East, to say I was excited might have been a huge understatement. And yet, sometimes a new title after so many years, an extra part of a story which you thought completed, can sometimes be a disappointment. Fear not, because West is every bit as beautiful, magnificent and wondrous as East. It continues Rose and the White Bear’s story as if the ink on the pages of East had only freshly dried. It carries the same heart, the same creative storytelling in its unique and simple way. It doesn’t undo any of the happy ending of the first book, but simply continues the story. And it has made this reader very, very happy.

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Book Review: His Name Was Walter

His Name Was Walter – Emily Rodda – Harper Collins Australia – Published 23 July 2018

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Synopsis

While on a history excursion, an ill-assorted group of four kids and their teacher are left on a country road when their minibus breaks down. At the suggestion of a friendly tow-truck driver, the five take shelter in a nearby old, deserted mansion. There they find a little old desk with a secret drawer. Inside the drawer is a book containing a handwritten story and a series of vivid, strangely lifelike paintings. The book is called His Name Was Walter.

The story begins: ‘Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own.’ And so begins the tale of Walter – his lonely childhood, his flight from the haunted streets of the city, his discovery of Magda the witch, his quest to find Magda’s lost daughter, and his meeting with the love of his life, the mysterious, tragic girl he calls Sparrow.

As the night closes in around them and the story of Walter and Sparrow unfolds, the kids read it avidly. Slowly the outer and inner stories begin to mesh. Slowly the story of Walter draws the five members of the group together. And in the end every one of the five plays a vital role in the uncovering of the truth.

My thoughts

From master storyteller, Emily Rodda, comes a stunning new story. His Name Was Walter is part mystery, part historical, part fantasy and wholly charming -sure to delight young and older readers alike.

When a small group of school children and their teacher get stranded on a lonely road while on an excursion it makes sense for them to shelter in the large house nearby. But the empty house is hiding many secrets, among them an old book with its thrilling story of young orphan Walter and his adventures, the strange people he meets and the mysterious girl named Sparrow that he sets out to rescue. As the story unfolds, the four children will encounter mysteries, history and a tale the likes of which they would never have imagined.

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