Tag Archives: fantasy

Mini Reviews: The Night Itself and Darkness Hidden by Zoe Marriott

I received copies of the first two books in The Name of the Blade Trilogy (Thank you Walker!) by total surprise a few weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to start them. After reading them I thought I’d do a combined-review post… Enjoy!(:

The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott

Published 2013 by Walker books.

20703287Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Mio steals the Katana – her grandfather’s priceless sword – she just wants to liven up a fancy dress costume. But the katana is more than a dusty heirloom, and her actions unleash an ancient evil onto the streets of modern-day London. Mio is soon stalked by the terrors of mythical Japan and it is only the appearance of a mysteriously familiar warrior boy that saves her life. Mio must learn how to control the katana’s legendary powers fast or she risks not only losing her own life… but the love of a lifetime.

My Review: The Night Itself was such a brilliant book! I’ve been meaning to read something by Zoe Marriott for ages, as I’ve only ever read glowing reviews of her fantasy novels. I’m glad I’ve gotten around to The Night Itself at last, as I loved it! I was hooked in from the beginning – literally on the edge of my seat as I read about the freaky events taking place around Mio after she steals the katana.

I’ve fallen in love with Marriott’s writing:  it’s so gorgeous and I was completely immersed. She’s also really talented at crafting memorable characters. Mio was a really great main character, but I also loved her best friend Jack, who I found hilarious!

The plot was crazy and fantastical. I didn’t expect a lot of the aspects, but really enjoyed the story. Highly recommended if you love urban fantasy

My Rating: 

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Darkness Hidden by Zoe Marriott

Published 3rd July 2014 by Walker books.

15723550Synopsis: Against all odds, Mio, Jack and Shinobu have defeated the terrifying Nekomata. But Mio is still compelled to protect the katana, her family’s ancestral sword, and now the Underworld has spawned a worse monster – one carrying a devastating plague that sweeps through London like wildfire. As Mio struggles to protect the city and control the sword’s deadly powers, she realizes that there is no way she can keep everyone she loves alive … and she must make a terrible sacrifice to save the world.

My Review: I’m always a little bit apprehensive when starting sequels to really awesome books – but Zoe Marriott definitely didn’t disappoint!

I loved how the romance developed between Mio and Shinobu. One character’s development that was most interesting (and shocking!) was Rachel’s, but she seemed a little bit forgotten about towards the end… I’m definite there will be a bigger focus on her, though, in Frail Mortal Heart. 

I wasn’t sure anything could terrify me more than the monsters in book one, but the new creatures after Mio in Darkness Hidden were terrifying! I was genuinely on the edge of my seat for the most part – but there were points where I saw the jump-scares coming.:P

The ending had me in a complete mess. I honestly do not know what to do now until next summer, when Frail Mortal Heart is released.

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^Basically me. // All in all, though, I really highly recommend the first two books in The Name of the Blade trilogy! They were both fantastically action-packed and pacy, and I loved the originality of it. Urban Fantasy is becoming a popular genre, and Marriott’s books really stand out in the market, with the way she blends urban London with ancient Japanese mythology and horror.

My Rating:

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I received copies of The Night Itself and Darkness Hidden from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

*unrelated note: I have been so busy, with school ending, and working at a school summer project, and other things, that I haven’t posted a book review in almost a month… *hangs head* Sorry D: But now I’ve finished school-related things properly, I’ll hopefully be neglecting the blog a lot less! Yay! (:*

Published September 2014 by Doubleday books.

13608989Goodreads Synopsis: From NEW YORK TIMES best-selling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

My Review: 

I started The Iron Trial really excitedly. I’m a big fan of both Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, so I thought that both of them collaborating on a book was a brilliant idea! For the first half of the book, though, I did struggle to get into the story… I definitely had a few issues with the story but towards the end I did enjoyit.

I did really like the characters- namely Call, who’s the main protagonist. As this is an MG book, and the start of a series, I think lots of younger readers are going to grow up loving him and the rest of the students at the Magisterium.

I grew to really enjoy Magisterium, but, mainly for the first half, there were so many points where I got agitated by it. I just found so many parallels to Harry Potter – wizards hiding in plain sight in an ordinary world, secret school, trio of kids (on the front cover) who look a little too much like Harry, Ron and Hermione… yup. (I know the themes are in lots of books, but still…) There were some really great plot twists, mainly towards the end, that made me grow to love the story a lot more, but for the first couple of hundred pages, I was a bit disappointed, because of the similarities.

Okay, ignoring the negative aspects for now; I really did loved the writing! I enjoy Cassie’s writing and adore Holly Black’s, so the two put together was just awesome. They’ve adapted their voices really well for an MG audience, I think. I will probably carry on reading the Magisterium series, as I love their joined writing style.

Overall, I did enjoy Magisterium, but it definitely didn’t live up to what I’d expected. The writing was superb and will definitely draw readers in, but the storyline didn’t do the same for me. I think, growing up with Harry Potter, I’m a little protective of it, so I just disliked reading a very similar story. However, after the twists at the end, I hope that the rest of the series will have a more original sound – I’m sure I’ll be making time for the sequel when it comes out!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Magisterium: The Iron Trial from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

Published April 24th 2014 by Random house.

18160169Goodreads Synopsis: Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed the day she met her first fairy…

When Alice’s father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon–an uncle she’s never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it’s hard to resist. Especially if you’re a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

My Review: The Forbidden Library series is bound to be the next big children’s fantasy sensation. The concept was really original and fun- I really recommend this is you’re a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia!

As soon as I’d started, I knew I was going to really like it. I was drawn in straight from the start; I really liked the quiet, hard-working protagonist Alice, and felt like crying with her after she finds out about her father. I was really absorbed in the story as she finds herself in a new, strange house with a relative she never knew she had.

After enjoying about a third of the book, I don’t know why, but I lost interest a little… I thought maybe I was just in the mood for another genre, so I read a couple of books  in-between. It took me a while to get back into the story. I really, really did love the concept and the magical books idea, it was so awesome, but for some reason up until the last hundred pages or so, I found myself just reading and not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I’m really not sure why!

Django Wexler’s writing really is great, it felt so descriptive and fun.I did find bits a little fast paced…. But it’s definitely worth a read, though, if you love fantasy; it ticks all of the boxes.

I really liked Alice, for the most of the story. She was a really relatable girl. She’s a bit lonely,but very adventurous. And, of course, she loves reading. 😀 A little way into the story, though, her personality just suddenly seemed to change. She was really… quiet sounding at the start, though very inquisitive, and then once the supporting character is introduced she suddenly seemed a lot different, I can’t quite put a finger on why… she just seemed randomly snappy? I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I’m not sure if that was just because I’d been dipping in and out of the story, though!

Overall, The Forbidden Library is definitely worth reading if you love fantasy books. I’m sure it’s going to be the Next Big Series for middle grade readers! I really did love the concept of the story… it’s a book about books, how can you not love that? 😀 Mostly, I was really absorbed in the story. It did take me a long time to read, and I was mixed a little about the protagonist, but I will most definitely be looking out for more from Django Wexler in the future!

My Rating: 

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I received a copy of The Forbidden Library from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

New Books! #41… Also, Nerdfighter stuff :)

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S0, this week’s haul is exciting 😀 There was a lot of squealing. Also, I’m taking photos of my books now instead of using the book jackets from Goodreads, because Hawwa’s book photography tutorial is awesome and even though my photos are awful compared to hers, especially the last one I took in a rush this morning, they look nicer than my rushed Picmonkey collages (Or, so I’m hoping)!

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The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris: *dances* I’ve been looking forward to finding a copy of this for a couple of months now! I was in the lovely London Forbidden Planet on Monday, looking at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy charts, and saw it was number one. The hardback was so pretty, so I picked a copy off the shelves, then looked closer and saw it was signed. There was much squealing and jumping up and down and people-looking-at-me-weirdly. But I don’t care, I have a copy now! Yay! I’m so excited.

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Daughters of Time by the History Girls: This came through the letterbox on Thursday… and the copy is so gorgeous! I’m looking forward to starting it; Daughters of Time is all about the women in History who’ve shaped today’s world. I’ll also be participating in the blog tour, very soon, so keep an eye out! thanks to Templar for sending this to me.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer: This looks and sounds amazing. I’ve definitely seen the cover around, but I’ve never actually had a proper look at the book before. After hearing and reading about its Costa book awards win, I decided I’d buy a copy, to see what it’s like. I read the blurb in the store and was just… wow-ed. I think this is going to be amazing.

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The Blackhart Legacy, #1: Banished by Liz de Jager: I can’t even put into words how excited I am for this! I’ve been waiting for ages to be able to read it; pretty much since I found out the lovely Liz had gotten a book deal, months ago. The cover’s absolutely stunning, and the first two chapters are too- they’re on Tor’s blog. I’m completely ditching the TBR pile for this: I’ve already started it, and I’m loving it. Definitely worth the waiting for!

RUN by Gregg Olsen: I received this from the lovely people at Newbooks magazine, so thanks, you lovely people! I love the magazine, which comes out every month, and I’m really excited to get the chance to review in it, starting with Run… and hopefully getting to review future titles for them, too! 😀 Run sounds brilliant; like a really gritty, thrilling crime book, so I’m positive I’ll enjoy it. It’s from Hot Key, and I don’t think they’ve released any/many crime books yet, so I’m eager to see what this one’s about.

Extra thing I’m going to randomly add onto the end of this post: A lot of you probably know I’m an avid nerdfighter, a lot of book bloggers are! Especially Lucy, who’s the blogger and booktuber behind Queen of Contemporary. She’s hosting a Nerdfighter Month very soon, with lots of videos and a readathon of John Green’s books, and loads more awesomeness! Get the word out, people of the internet, this is going to be awesome. Dftba, of course. 😀 Here’s the introductory announcement video, which doesn’t seen to embed into this post, for some reason:

Book Review: The Queen of Dreams by Peter Hamilton

Published by Doubleday (Random House books), 2nd January.

The Queen of DreamsGoodreads Synopsis: Taggie and Jemima are summer holidaying on their dad’s farm, when they see a white squirrel wearing glasses . . . and soon after their father is captured and trapped in a faerie world that’s fallen to Darkness.

But why would anybody want to kidnap boring old Dad, especially the dreaded King of Night? Could it be that their family isn’t quite as ordinary as they believed?

My Review: I received The Queen of Dreams as a surprise in late 2013, and the cover was so gorgeous- I was excited to start it. I think it’s going to be a modern classic for children- ‘The new Alice in Wonderland’ is a fitting way to put it!

The Queen of Dreams follows Taggie and Jemima- two girls about to stay with their dad, currently divorced from their mum, on a holiday. Strange things surround their dad’s cottage… and within hours they’ve seen a squirrel wearing glasses leap down a well, then their dad is kidnapped, by terrifying creatures. I thought the squirrel thing was a bit too Alice in Wonderland at first, and was a little scared this book wouldn’t be very original. But, it really was! I enjoyed it a lot.

The fantastical world Peter Hamilton has created is vivid and beautiful. There are hidden realms, lost heirs to the throne, fairies flying in the sky, and a strangely loveable talking squirrel. It was so fun to get lost in the story, and at the last page I really wanted more! The book has a magical, personal feeling about it, because it was written for Peter’s children and two of the characters take his kids’ names. I found that really sweet!

Peter’s writing is descriptive and rich, and he’s created some really great characters. The king of night and the creepy people who begin to follow Taggie and Jemima are truly terrifying, and the main girls themselves are really fun to read about. There are themes of divorce and family in the book too, that I loved, and there’s a clever twist at the end of the book that left me aching for answers about the parents!

I loved the characters Taggie and Jemima, but at some points, I couldn’t really connect with them. That was one of a few parts of the book that I didn’t like! Also, events moved very quickly, and at a few points I struggled to keep up a little. I hope the pace slows down a bit in book two, so I can appreciate the writing better. Okay, The Queen of Dreams is a fantasy novel, but some parts I did find a little out of place, like a certain trip back in time to a well known place I can’t say anymore about… (:

Overall, The Queen of Dreams is a rich, imaginative and engrossing story. This is Peter’s first book for children, and I definitely enjoyed it. ‘m looking forward to hunting down Hamilton’s adult Sci-Fi novels, now, and the sequel to this! The Queen of Dreams is a mesmerizing story- a bit random in places, and sometimes very fast-moving, to me. However, I think a lot of children and adults alike are going to love it. I’m glad I got the chance to read it, as it’s definitely going to become a modern classic.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of The Queen of Dreams from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Phoenix

By SF Said, published by David Fickling Books.

PhoenixGoodreads Synopsis: THE SUPERNOVA IS COMING . . . ONE BOY ALONE CAN SAVE THE GALAXY!

Lucky thinks he’s an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing – and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him.

Now he’s on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair.

Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way . . .

My Review: This book kept catching my eye in bookstores, and I was approved for it on Netgalley. I kept putting it off because it was on my kindle and I prefer physical copies! I wanted to buy this to read on paper but in the end, curiosity got the better of me and I started it on my kindle, even though the illustrations have a better effect in physical copies. Even though it probably wasn’t the best reading experience, on a kindle, I feel in love with this story. I’m definitely going to be buying it and re-reading it soon!

Phoenix is about a boy called Lucky, who’s living in a universe torn apart by war. When he almost burns his room down in his sleep, a chain of events starts, pulling him into the conflict between the humans and the Axxa. The plot unfolds really well, and there were some genius twists that kept me guessing at the ending. There’s no way I could have ever predicted the last chapters. They were heartbreaking, yet hopeful, and so beautiful.

The book was full of some breath-taking world building- It was so vivid and realistic, I felt like if I looked out of my window I’d see the starships flying across the skies and the feel the stars singing. It was amazing, how powerful the world was! The plot was action packed and adventurous, yet despite all of the fantastical happenings, the story can be applied to real life. It deals with the effects of war, and unlikely friendships, and I really loved how that’s relatable to loads of situations here in real life. The writing, as well as the illustrations, bring the story to life beautifully. It was so descriptive, but not over-the-top, and generated a lot of powerful imagery. SF Said is really talented at weaving tension into a story, and he made me really feel for the characters.

Lucky is unforgettable. At first, over the first tenth of the book, I was a little unsure of him, because he didn’t seem to be that brave. Though, I think that may have been intended; because Lucky’s development over the story is amazing. His power, though it’s a burden to him, sounds pretty cool! (: Another character that I fell in love with, was Bixa. She’s an Axxa, as part of the starship crew that Lucky joins. She’s really unique and loveable- pretty awesomely kick-butt, too! Her friendship with Lucky was so… CUTE! I loved them, though of course all of the other members of the Axxa crew have a special place in my heart now… (:

Overall, Phoenix is a really amazing novel. I’m so glad I finally thought I’d request and read it. (I blame M at We Sat Down for this new bookish obsession!!) The plot was superbly written, and I immersed myself in the world so easily. I really, really didn’t want to leave it at the end! The characters were all flawless; each has such detailed backgrounds and personalities- I felt I knew them. I did really want to talk about all of McKean’s drawings for the book here, too: But on a kindle they really didn’t look as amazing as they do on paper. Phoenix is on my to-buy list for when I next visit a bookshop though, so I can read it in physical form and experience the illustrations better- they are breathtaking! Anyway- HIGHLY recommended for any sci-fi fans, fantasy fans, etc., out there- and also anybody who wants a new favourite book (:

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Phoenix from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Waiting on Wednesday #2

Wow. I said about A MONTH ago that I’d start this meme and do it regularly. That didn’t really happen, did it? D:
Hopefully I’ll post these a lot more often, now! I’m gong to sort out a proper schedule for 2014 so I’m going to make sure I’ve got this meme on it! (:

So, what book am I waiting-on?

THE MEMORY KEEPERS by Natasha Ngan!

(No cover art yet! ) Goodreads Synopsis:

“No one can take your memories from you… can they?”

Seven is a thief with a difference – he steals downloadable memories from banks and memoriums to sell onto London’s black market, trading secrets and hidden pasts for a chance at a future of his own. He makes sure he keeps some special stuff back to ‘surf’ himself though – it’s the only real form of entertainment he can afford. But one night, as Seven is breaking into a private memorium in a wealthy part of London, he is caught in the act by one of its residents; Alba, the teenage daughter of London’s most famous criminal prosecutor. Instead of giving him away, Alba promises to keep Seven’s secret – as long as he allows her to go memory-surfing herself. In doing so, they discover a hidden memory about Seven’s past, revealing a shocking secret about Seven’s childhood, the government and a mysterious experiment known as The Memory Keepers…

Now Seven and Alba will have to race against time to unlock the maze of The Memory Keepers – but can they keep themselves out of harm’s way before the London Guard – and Alba’s father – catches up with them?

Why am I waiting-on this?

If you’ve been reading my blog since the summer, you’ll probably have seen my review of Natasha’s THE ELITES, as well as my interview with her! (: The Elites completely blew me away: it was an amazing debut novel. Natasha Ngan’s writing is beautiful and suspenseful and genius and she’s such a lovely person!! (: Since I finished her book I have been so excited to read more from Natasha. Luckily this is out next year- and it sounds just as awesome as Natasha’s debut. I love Sci-Fi, and mystery, books so this looks perfect for me. It hasn’t yet got a cover, so there probably will be a very fangirly post in the future when that is released…
I just checked the publishing date and it isn’t out until late next year (autumn)… so can somebody lend me a TARDIS? PLEASE? :3 (or a time turner. :D)

A few minutes ago, I was tweeting Natasha about including her book in this meme, and she offered to give me a little extract from The Memory Keepers. This, if it happens, may go up on Sunday which I am SO excited about! I may or may not have done a little fangirly dance in my chair. Hehe. So make sure to check when this may be happening! (:

Spotlight on Steampunk: The Whatnot

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Today’s Steampunk book isn’t entirely steampunk; it’s more of a fantasy novel, though I really wanted to include it in this fortnight, because look at that pretty steampunk-y cover! And, mechanical birds! (Easily one of the coolest bits of the series) The author, Stefan Bachmann, will be on the blog tomorrow, with a guest post, too- which I am so excited for! ;D This is the sequel to The Peculiar- so if you want to pick up this book, make sure to check out that one, first!

By Stefan Bachmann, published by Harper Collins.

The Whatnot (The Peculiar, #2)Goodreads Synopsis: “Oh, the Sly King, the Sly King, in his towers of ash and wind.”

Pikey Thomas doesn’t know how or why he can see the changeling girl. But there she is. Not in the cold, muddy London neighborhood where Pikey lives. Instead, she’s walking through the trees and snow of the enchanted Old Country or, later, racing through an opulent hall. She’s pale and small, and she has branches growing out of her head. Her name is Henrietta Kettle.
Pikey’s vision, it turns out, is worth something.
Worth something to Hettie’s brother—a brave adventurer named Bartholomew Kettle. Worth something to the nobleman who protects him. And Pikey is not above bartering—Pikey will do almost anything to escape his past; he’ll do almost anything for a life worth living.
The faeries—save for a mysterious sylph and a mischievous cobble faery or two— have been chased out of London. They’ve all gone north. The army is heading north, too. So Pikey and Bartholomew follow, collecting information, piecing together clues, searching for the doorway that will lead them to Hettie. 
The Whatnot is the enthralling, surprising, and unforgettable companion to Stefan Bachmann’s internationally bestselling debut novel The Peculiar.
My Review: I was so excited to start this! I was sent a copy of Stefan’s debut, The Peculiar, about this time last year by Harper Collins. The book completely blew me away; I was so absorbed in the fantastical vision of England, which was invaded by Faeries. I’ve been waiting since the start of the year to read the sequel, because I really wanted more of the world, and The Peculiar was left on such a cliffhanger- I needed to know what happened to Hettie… I haven’t been able to get around to the sequel since I was accepted for it on Netgalley in September ): But, I’m so glad I’ve finally read it now- it was definitely worth the wait- I read all of it in two sittings!
I was slightly confused, as the story began. There’s a new central character to the story- Pikey. He’s a pretty mysterious character- we don’t know everything about him, even by the end of the book, though he’s still really likeable. He’s similar to Barthy and Hettie, the Peculiar siblings (half human, half faerie!), because he’s hated by so many people. As I started, I wasn’t sure if I was reading right- where were the old main narrators, Barthy and Hettie? Then, the scenes began to switch between Pikey’s adventure, and Hettie’s. The two people are linked, because Hettie found his eye, and keeps it with her- and every now and then, he gets visions of her, from his lost eye. I loved that concept! It was really clever, and made the plot really interesting. When Barthy meets Pikey, they immediately go searching for Hettie- who’s been kidnapped, and now owned by a new character, who calls her The Whatnot. I really enjoyed reading about them. There were some great twists to the story, that kept me hooked and kept the characters  in constant danger.
Hettie is such a loveable character. I was already really attached to her in the Peculiar, and she was even more loveable in this installment! She seemed a lot braver and adventurous in this book, and her adventure definitely was the most fun to read about. Barthy (or Bartholomew)  seemed very… I’m not sure how to put it! I could connect with him really well in the Peculiar, but not so much in the Whatnot, at first. He seemed to me as a little distant and less likeable at first, though I grew to love him more again over his quest to find Hettie. The ending for both of these characters I can’t really talk about- I really don’t want to spoil it! But I’ll say that it will make tears spring to your eyes. Pikey also has a really great ending. I loved Pikey! There needs to be more of story to him- a spin-off novella, maybe, Stefan? Please? ;D
Stefan’s writing is absolutely beautiful. I fell in love with it in his debut- and it was especially brilliant, because The Peculiar was Stefan’s debut, that was published before he was nineteen. In the sequel, his writing was equally amazing. The descriptions were so vivid and realistic, I felt I was there- in this unique, original vision of a faerie infested England! Too often people say that an author’s second book, or sequel to a series, will be the hardest to write- I’m not sure about Stefan’s experience writing The Whatnot, but it was just as amazing as his first book, and it definitely didn’t let me down!
Overall, I was so captured by The Whatnot. The plot, as I hoped, was layered and unpredictable, and I found myself completely addicted to the story. The setting is so rich with imagination. I really love this world, but the way this book ended, I’m guessing that’s the end of it…. please no! More, Mr Bachmann! I need MORE of Hettie, Barthy and Pikey’s stories! ;D I definitely need to re-read the two books again sometime- and I’m sure I’ll be recommending these to anybody looking for an unforgettable fantasy, or a just a breath-taking read. Hettie, Barthy and Pikey are all completely unforgettable characters. I love them to bits! A highly recommended steampunk / dark fantasy adventure for anybody.
My Rating:
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I received a copy of The Whatnot from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Spotlight on Steampunk: an Interview with Nigel McDowell!

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Yay! I’m super happy to have Nigel McDowell answering some questions today. It was so awesome of him to answer! Earlier this year, his debut novel, Tall Tales from Pitch End, was published with Hot Key Books. Tall Tales is a very dark, and compelling, fantasy for YAs, with a lot of Steampunk elements. You can read my old review HERE!
Nigel didn’t actually realise he’d written in a fantasy/Steampunk crossover genre- but Hot Key Books pitched it this way, and the cover’s very Steampunk with its machinery themes! *bookcoverfangirlyscream* The reason I read this book is because of how Hot Key’s employee Olivia told me about the dark fantasy and steampunk. (: Nigel really kindly agreed to answer a few questions on his book for my Steampunk event. Here they are- but first, a little bit about the author…

Hot_Key_Photo_AuthorNigel grew up in County Fermanagh, rural Northern Ireland, and as a child spent most of his time battling boredom, looking for adventure – crawling through ditches, climbing trees, devising games to play with his brother and sister, and reading. His favourite book as a child was The Witches by Roald Dahl. After graduating with a degree in English (and having no clue what to do with it!), he decided to go off on another adventure, spending almost two years living and working in Australia and New Zealand. With him he took a small notebook containing notes about a boy called “Bruno Atlas”, and a seaside town called “Pitch End”. When he returned to Ireland after his travels, one notebook had multiplied into many, and eventually his notes for Tall Tales from Pitch End filled a large cardboard box…

Nigel now lives in London. He has written articles on film and literature for a number of websites.He is always on the hunt for books about folklore and fairytale. He wishes he had more time to climb trees. Tall Tales from Pitch End is Nigel’s debut novel.

Follow Nigel on Twitter: @NMcDowellAuthor

website: http://www.nigelmcdowellauthor.com

Now for the questions!

1-firstly, can you tell us a little bit about Tall Tales?

Tall Tales from Pitch End is a dark fantasy adventure.  It is set in the seaside town of Pitch End, a place cut off from the rest of the world, surrounded by a high stone wall and a range of impassable mountains, and ruled by a group of (old but still Tall Tales From Pitch Endsuspiciously enduring) all-powerful Elders.  An odd place, about as rural and closed-minded as you could find; rife with paranoia, and where the townsfolk are spied on dawn and dusk by hundreds of clockwork cats.  It’s also a place where a person’s inherent magical power, known as “Talent”, is forbidden from use.  Our main character is a boy called Bruno Atlas, who discovers a book that belonged to his murdered father – the Tall Tales from Pitch End.  The book contains a collection of folktales which, Bruno suspects, may be the true record of what has happened in the history of Pitch End (or truer than the version being pedalled by the Elders!).  The discovery of the book starts a spark of rebellion in Bruno, and he sets of on an adventure to discover the truth about his father, to unpick the riddles and lies of the town, and to try and overthrow the Elders…

2- your debut novel is a dark, steampunk fantasy: did you always intend on writing a novel around those themes?

All writers say this, but it is true: it felt more as though Bruno’s story chose me, and I just had to go along with it and try to tell his tale as best I could!  Though I do love fantasy-adventure literature and film of this kind – His Dark Materials, the novels of Frances Hardinge, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, and films like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Return to Oz (I grew up in the eighties).  So I wanted to tell a story about an enclosed world with its own very particular history and folklore, that was filled with lots of strange ideas, and had plenty of action and adventure.

3- If you could ask Bruno three questions about anything not mentioned in the novel, what would they be?

That’s such a good question!  And very difficult to answer too…perhaps instead of ‘asking’ him three things, I could ‘tell’ him three things?  Is that alright?  So firstly, I’d tell him not to worry so much; I’d tell him too that life can be a constant and confusing course of learning when to speak out and when to be thoughtful, and finally and above all else – to trust in the power of his own imagination.

Railsea4- do you read any steampunk books?

Not many, to be honest.  (Steampunk as a genre wasn’t something I’d heard of until embarrassingly recently, so I was writing Tall Tales in complete ignorance of how it might fit into a certain genre!).  Though I do love Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series, which I suppose I would’ve described as steampunk, until Philip Reeve himself recently remarked on Twitter that he dislikes that  genre!  But I did read Railsea by China Mieville a few months ago, and which I think qualifies as steampunk?  It was very interesting; a fascinating concept, great story, very intelligent, and beautifully written too.

(Eek! I reviewed a Philip Reeve title for my steampunk event…. ha! :D)

5-what do you love about the genre you’ve written in?

I think at its best, fantasy can achieve many things that great stories aspire to.  A good fantasy story can be utterly transporting, as well as exciting, moving, funny, inventive.  It can also manage to say something profound about who we are as people.  When it comes to the type of stories I write, I like to draw as much as possible on Irish history, folklore and fairy-tale, of which there is a great deal – and beautiful and odd it is too!  And it’s a great genre to write in because you can do absolutely anything your imagination can conceive of.  If you can dream it, then you can commit it to the page.  But the real challenge is making those things – the world you’ve presented – feel rich and complex, deep and detailed enough to be believed in.

6-finally, if you’re already writing another book: can you give us any hints?

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That is a *lot* of research and drafting for Tall Tales!

At the moment I’m coming towards the end of editing my new novel.  It is another dark fantasy adventure that I’m calling The Black North.  It is set in a land called The Divided Isle.  A military force has invaded, taken the North and laid waste.  They’ve recruited all manner of dark creatures and magic for their cause, and installed a powerful King.  The story follows a young girl from the South, Oona, and her comrade – a contrary and commanding talking jackdaw, who often transforms into a contrary and commanding old woman – as they journey across the Divide and into the ‘Black North’ to try and rescue Oona’s brother, who has been captured by the Invaders.  After a story like Tall Tales, I wanted to write a novel where the characters were taken on an adventure across a great and treacherous distance, encountering various peoples and creatures, grappling with a lot of excitement and danger along the way!  It will be published by Hot Key Books in June 2014.

Thank you so much for the blog interview, Nigel! I am SO excited for your next book- it sounds amazing! *adds to the wishlist* I hope everyone enjoyed this interview- make sure to check out Nigel’s book. You can find it on Goodreads here.

Spotlight on Steampunk: Steampunk!

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I don’t usually read anthologies, but this caught my eye in Foyles in London, months ago! I’m really glad I’ve gotten around to reading it, because it was a great mixture of Steampunk stories.

[anthology] by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Elizabeth Knox, Christopher Rowe, Delia Sherman, Ysabeau Wilce, M. T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Shawn Cheng, Cory Doctorow, Dylan Horrocks, and Kathleen Jennings; edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, published by Walker.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange StoriesGoodreads Synopsis: In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre’s mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions.

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the steampunk genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, Ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

My Review: This anthology was great! It took me a while to read it, as not only, like most books, am I dipping in and out of it between lessons- but also because there were a lot of stories in there that I kept thinking about as I was reading the next one: So I had to re-read lots! This has been sitting on my shelf for quite a few months now. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to read it, because I’ve found a collection of really beautiful stories that I’m sure I’ll delve into again and again.

A lot of people will do separate ratings for stories in an anthology, but here I’m just going to cover my favourites and my least favourites.I think otherwise it would take ages, writing paragraphs about all of them- and there were quite a few pieces, as you could probably tell by all the authors at the top of this review! Firstly, I’ll get the bad-ish stuff out of the way, because I want to get on with fangirling about the awesomest ones ;D

There were a couple of stories in here that I couldn’t really get into One of them was The Glory Girls by Libba Bray. I’ve heard so many raving reviews about her novels, so I was pretty excited to read a short story of her’s… but I just really didn’t enjoy it. There were about two or three others, that I semi-enjoyed reading- though after I finished them, I couldn’t even remember what had happened. I feel really bad about that! I just found that some were a LOT more memorable than others.

Okay, now for the stuff I loved- saving the best ’til last, of course! Holly Black’s story, I quite enjoyed, because it was full of automatons, and I love automatons. Another story that I really loved was Ysabeau S. Wilce’s. I didn’t realise she was in this, as her name wasn’t on the front cover; but she was one of my favourite authors when I was younger! She wrote Flora Segunda of Crackpot Hall, which I read way too many times. Luckily, she didn’t let me down here; her story was a brilliant, classic-feel detective story with Victorian London elements. It was so chilling! Cassandra Clare’s story opened the anthology- and that made a brilliant start to the collection. Her story seemed like one I would’ve probably put as pretty fun, until the last couple of pages; wherein time travel took center stage, and added in a really clever, and absolutely heart-breaking (to me!) twist. I absolutely adored it- and I read that last paragraph again and again.

There are two graphic novel artists contributing, and their works was brilliant! The first mini-graphic novel, was pretty funny but tragic at the same time. The second one was quite moving, I found! They were really fun twists in the anthology, which is quite big at four hundred pages- so the writing is broken up in the right places with the great illustrations.

It was hard to pick a favourite! I think the best story in here was Steam Girl. Already,the title appealed to me, and I’d never heard of the author before, so I was pretty interesting in finding out what he (Dylan Horrocks) wrote like. This story, just completely blew me away. The concept was so beautiful, and the story built up this beautiful back-story to the Steam Girl- who’s in fact a new girl at a high school, who acts strange and dresses differently, who the main character meets. The story is told, largely, in stories by Steam girl; because she’s always in her own world; always writing down these magical stories and drawing pictures of Steam Girl, on her adventures in a Steampunk-inspired Space adventure. The end result was so thrilling and really tugs at your heartstrings. Dylan’s piece, and Cassandra’s, have to be the ones that stand out here!

Overall, Steampunk! is a really imaginative anthology, of original and fun stories that will have a reader completely absorbed. There were about four that I didn’t really enjoy. I struggled to get into a few, and I think it might have been because there was so much, packed into small places, in multiple cases. However, the majority were absolutely brilliant! Some of the stories are under ten pages- some are about fifty- but all of them pack a real punch in a different way. There are so many unique worlds in all of the tales, and I found myself really wanting to read more set in each place, after finishing the pieces! I’ve discovered (and re-discovered) a lot of fantastic authors, who I’ll definitely be looking out for in bookshops now. I can’t wait to read more from these- this anthology is packed with talent!

My Rating:

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I purchased a copy of Steampunk! From a bookstore.