The Shadow Palace: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 6) by Celine Jeanjean #TuesdayBookBlog

Shadow Palace

They made it into the palace…

…But will they be able to escape from it?

In the shadowy world of the Airnian court, nothing is more important than knowing who to trust. And nothing is harder to determine.

Rory and the gang need to make alliances if they’re to succeed in their mission, but their attempts are met with intrigue and betrayal. And all the while, the White Hornet is watching, waiting for an opportunity to make them disappear.

Longinus, meanwhile, continues with his quest to discover what happened to his family. His search for answers will take him deep within the palace, and deep within its secrets, until he is faced with a horrific choice.

Can Rory and the gang save him from a fate worse than death?

The 6th story in this series follows on immediately after the dramatic events in Arnia at the end of Book 5, The White Hornet. Recovering from her dip beneath the ice, Rory must now spend more time at the Arnian court hobnobbing with influential people. Accompanied by Rafe, with whom she has become closer they partake of the entertainment in the impressive palace, decorated with gold and full of mirrors.

Meanwhile Longinus, Adelma and Cruikshank search the corridors and caves beneath the palace encountering strange sickly people. But Longinus has his own agenda. He believes that his long-lost mother may be in the city and he wants to know more about the death of his father.  Soon both Longinus and Rafe are endangering their companions as they are both entangled in mistakes from the past.

It is the wonderful characterisation of the Damsian party which makes this story so gripping.  But it seems as though they will never be able to return to Damsport alive and even their friendship is threatened.  There could be a happy ending but dark secrets from the past will not go away.

The Shadow Palace is now available on Amazon UK

My review of The White Hornet

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The Fowl Twins By Eoin Colfer #YA #TuesdayBookBlog

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Dear Reader…

For ten thousand years, the fairy folk have trusted the secret of their subterranean existence to only a handful of humans, including their greatest ally, the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. So, when a fairy is stranded on the surface, the folk turn to Artemis for help. But unfortunately, Artemis has launched himself into space, so the call to arms is taken up by his twin brothers, eleven-year-old Myles and Beckett, who are yet to have an adventure of their own.

But what the Fowl Twins lack in experience they make up for with argumentative natures, atrocious fashion sense and a total lack of regard for their own safety. How can it all end well? It probably won’t, especially with a murderous nobleman, a knife-wielding nun and a shadowy government organisation on their tails. But, whatever the outcome, you can be guaranteed that the journey itself will be fraught with danger, bloated with gas and infuriating beyond words.

So stock-up on snacks, switch off your phone and prepare to read way past bedtime – for here begins the second cycle of modern Fowl adventures.

Enjoy!

Eoin Colfer

The Fowl Twins was a Christmas present from my daughter as we both enjoyed the Artemis Fowl books back in 2004.  I feel the adventures of Artemis had run their course but this new series about his twin brothers has revitalised my interest in the talented Irish Fowl family and their friends in the LEP (Lower Elements Police).  The extraordinary abilities and fast moving adventures of this disparate group of boys and fairy folk leave you breathless as they travel around the world in the clutches of a maniacal nun, Sister Jeronima of Bilbao, and a dastardly peer of the realm, Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye.  Our twin heroes are Myles, a rather arrogant intellectual, and his delightful, messy brother Beckett. Despite their very different characters, they have a close understanding and as the plot develops, it is evident that they are very much a team.

Their companions are a tiny tough troll with whom only Beckett can communicate and Lazuli, a trainee LEP who is a pixel or pixie-elf. Like all of Eoin Colfer’s books, the prose is erudite, vividly descriptive and hilarious. This is the first of a new series and it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Myles and Beckett develops and the potential of Lazuli with her newly acquired magic powers.

The Fowl Twins can be purchased on Amazon UK

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman #YA #BookReview

Graveyard

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

My Review

This unusual story is not typical of the style of books I would choose but I knew after reading Good Omens that Neil Gaiman is a writer to follow.  Written for Middle Grade readers The Graveyard Book is also perfect for adults.  After a horrifying introduction when three members of a family are murdered by a cruel killer named Jack, the orphaned baby escapes. Crawling into the graveyard he is adopted by the ghosts and other inhabitants and his new parents name him Nobody Owens or Bod for short.  Like other children he learns by experience and through the guidance of those who bring him up. He is kept safe from Jack, who still seeks him, but is able to make friends with one living human, a girl called Scarlett. When Scarlett disappears from his life Bod is not prepared to stay in the sanctuary of the graveyard, but can he survive to adulthood?

The environment and inhabitants of the graveyard have charm and intrigue and the plot is incredibly inventive. A novel about loyalty and friendship and it’s such fun.

First published in 2008, the film of The Graveyard Book is currently being produced.

To read more about Neil Gaiman

Gaiman

The Graveyard Book on Amazon UK

 

The Wind Singer by William Nicholson #BookReview #YA

Wind Singer

William Nicholson was the playwright who wrote “Shadowlands” and “Gladiator” so it may surprise you to read that The Wind Singer is a children’s book (or at least young adults). It is a dystopian fantasy, centred on Kestrel and Bowman Hath, twin sister and brother who live in the city of Aramanth with their mother, father and baby sister. In Aramanth everyone is ranked and housed according to their success or otherwise in examinations. From the first toddler test to check whether a baby can identify colours and is out of nappies to the advanced tests for the father of the family.

The Hath family live in the Orange sector which we would identify as being for blue-collar workers although they are obviously intellectually superior but don’t toe the line. Kestrel is strong and independent and always protects her sensitive, fey, twin brother Bowman. The whole Hath family are closely tied by love and are torn apart by a mistake made by Kestrel. She and her brother realise that the city will only become whole and normal if they can find the missing part of the Wind-Singer a strange tower erected by another race thousands of years before. Their quest takes them on a long journey accompanied by Mumpo, a very simple boy who loves Kestrel. Their journey, bravery and adventures make up the rest of the story. It sounds predictable but it is a compelling read and this is both a complete story in its own right and part one of a trilogy with very different, more demanding events in the next two books.

I think this is essential reading for today’s constantly tested young people, especially the children of competitive parents, but it is also a very enjoyable read for any adult who enjoys a fantasy read.

The Wind Singer at Amazon UK

Oath Breaker by Shelley Wilson #bookreview #Fridayreads

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It’s a while since I read a YA book although they used to be my first choice of genre.  I was a little unsure of the werewolf theme but the text of the first page enthralled me.

The blue flashing lights pulsed through the fractured front window, illuminating the blood splatter on the walls.  The click-click of the forensic team’s camera ate into the sterile silence as the officers combed through the living room.

Like something out of a macabre horror show the blood covered everything, coating the threadbare rug in front of the fireplace with its crimson wash.  The splintered remains of the coffee table littered the overturned chair, and the smell of death clung to the walls.

Mia finds herself orphaned after the violent death of her father and is surprised at the sudden appearance of Sebastian Roberts, saying he is her uncle.  A smart, arrogant man, resembling her cruel father, he whisks her away to Hood Academy, his private boarding school, and begins to seem kind and considerate.  But Mia longs to find her elder brother, Zak, who has disappeared after running away from their home.  She begins to encounter others who warn her to be careful who she trusts.

There is something reassuring about the boarding school setting, where Mia finds a reliable friend, Elizabeth and a caring teacher, Miss Ross.  There is even a school bully, Felicity, but in this school the danger is life-threatening.  The girls have been chosen to train as werewolf hunters and Mia is surprised to discover she has fighting skills.  But there are mysterious goings-on behind locked doors and she begins to wonder if the werewolves are all bad.

In addition to the mystery and daredevil adventure there is burgeoning romance and loyal friendship which make this novel heartening to read as well as thrilling.  I am now tempted to sample Shelley Wilson’s Guardian series.

You can buy Oath Breaker on Amazon UK  or on Amazon US

You can read my review of Shelley’s motivational book Vision Boards for Beginners here

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Shelley Wilson

The Black Orchid by Celine Jeanjean

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The second adventure of the Viper and the Urchin finds these two disparate characters relocated to the warehouse of Cruikshank, engineer to the Marchioness, no longer an assassin and a pickpocket, but officially employed by the Old Girl, as the Marchioness is affectionately called.  But their services have not been required and they are feeling aimless and redundant when at last they are summoned to investigate a mysterious death by exsanguination in the insalubrious Bayog district of the city of Damsport.

 

Rory’s knowledge of the criminal underworld of the Rookery make her indispensable but Longinus occupies his time investigating the unexplained shortage of the black silk he needs urgently for his new elegant suit.  A link between these two events is discovered in The Black Orchid, a newly popular brothel.  Rory and Longinus find themselves in great danger again, not just from their enemy but also from threats to their relationship.  As they become estranged, the future looks grim.

 

Like the first book, The Black Orchid engages readers by the strong, vibrant women who never give up against all odds.  An old relationship between the Marchioness and stunningly beautiful Mizria may be reawakened, Rory seems to be becoming closer to Varanguard, Rafe and Longinus continues to send anonymous poems to Lady Martha, daughter of the Old Girl.

 

Celine Jeanjean has written another thrilling adventure which is hard to put down.  The grubby streets of the city come alive in the fast moving plot and each character has substance and complication.  Alchemy and steam driven vehicles play their part but heroism shines.  In conclusion the scene is set for further adventure involving characters who have come to mean a great deal to their readers.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

The Viper and the Urchin by Celine Jeanjean

Celine

The Viper and the Urchin is a rollicking good tale which grabs you by the collar and sweeps you through the grimy streets of Damsport with humour and nail-biting danger.  Its heroine, Rory, is a small scrawny urchin, scraping a living by theft and deception, who makes an unlikely alliance with the elegant Viper, an assassin who uses only poison on his victims and takes pride in his art.

When Longinus, the Viper, questions Rory’s behaviour, “You are coarse, you swear, and worse, you are grammatically incorrect,” she responds correctly, “Well I’m supposed to be, aint I?  You’re the laconic assassin.  I’m the cheeky urchin.  That’s how it works.”

There are several other vibrant characters too, such as Cruikshank, the engineer who has designed a large mechanical spider to transport them up walls & over roofs, the Old Girl or Marchioness of Damsport who rules the state and the Scarred Woman, a mysterious swordswoman whom Rory wishes to emulate.

The city environment is vividly described, dirty and crowded with Banyan trees sprouting out of cracks in the radiating streets.  I could visualise the Varanguards, costumed in the style of Varan, a dancer who hid knives in her hair, wearing horsehair ponytails as part of their helmets.  And I would love to board Crazy Willy, the wild beast of a steam coach which races through the streets each night.

This exciting story contains all the essential ingredients of a fantastic steam-punk adventure, including a tough but vulnerable heroine, an intriguing companion, an evil foe and even a vague suggestion of a romantic interest.  It is the first book of The Bloodless Assassin Mysteries and I am very much looking forward to the publication of the next one.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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Samantha Shannon was born in West London in 1991. She started writing novels at the age of fifteen and studied English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, specialising in Emily Dickinson and Film Studies. In 2013, she published The Bone Season, the first novel in a seven-book series of fantasy novels.

I’m always wary of reading books declared to be, “the new Harry Potter,” but I was intrigued by reading a few pages and I wanted to learn more about the 19 year old heroine, Paige, and the dystopian environment of an alternative 2059 underground London. In fact, early in the book, Paige is drugged and taken to the prison of Oxford, a city that has been hidden for 200 years. Conditions are a mixture of pseudo-Victorian, modern and imaginary but you quickly accept the environment. The key to the story is clairvoyance and the “aether.”

Paige is put into the care of Warden, a Rephaim. He is not human but his character is reminiscent of Rochester in Jane Eyre. Paige has the courage and determination of Katniss in The Hunger Games but she insists on fighting everyone and everything which results in monotonous injuries.

This is by no means a perfect novel but it is intriguing and full of vivid characters and though long is compulsive reading.  Now two years later she has published her second novel The Mime Order and, “Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.”

Tales from Null City by Barb Taub

Barb Taub

This book contains two stories; the first and longest is Payback is a Witch.

I would not usually pick up a fantasy book as my first choice, but I have found that those written for YA are by far the best. Fantasy requires an inventive mind, creative ideas and preferably, a sense of humour. Luckily Barb Taub has all three, in spades.

As far as I am concerned, you are on to a winner if you live with an enormous Norwegian Forest cat, called Bygul, especially if she is also a goddess who can vanish. But the real heroine of this story is Claire Danielsen, a young witch struggling to continue the work her mother and grandmother did before her. Living alone in the woods she channels the power given to her by her goddess in order to fight evil. Six years earlier she had trained as a Warden to protect the innocents against those who plan to destroy Null City, alongside Peter Oshiro, whom she had loved and walked away from, but now he is back in her life.

Claire’s character is particularly well developed. We feel her confusion, her determination and her pain. She tries to shield Peter from harm and to maintain her lonely independence as the increasing danger of Barghests, the Black Hounds, and the unsolved mystery of her mother’s death cause her to banish both him and her goddess, Bygul.

Barb shows the reader how Claire becomes aware of the threat around her very effectively using these words, “The blackboard-scratching itch in her brain had intensified until it now felt like claws slashing inside her head.”

This is a great read for excitement, tension, romance and a twist in the tail.
The second story, Just for the Spell of it, is a shorter and lighter tale with less feeling of impending doom although there are parallels with the first story. Once again there is a female heroine with special powers with an attractive male sidekick. Eirie Danu is a radio DJ with a popular bubbly personality; Liam, her fellow Warden, is a serious, unemotional young man in person, but he is also a zany prankster who rings up her radio show with daft messages.

Eirie and Liam are given the task of finding a missing Argentinian soccer player and a baby who is apparently Eirie’s sister. We discover that Eirie was the daughter of the Queen of the Fae from a land of eternal youth but Eirie had abdicated as heir when she thought her mother had died several years ago.

We accompany Eirie and Liam through frightening adventure and a roller-coaster relationship as she reveals to him that she is more than just a fun loving girl and they both make decisions about commitment.

These two refreshingly different tales are well worth investigating and I will certainly be seeking out the earlier books to learn more about Null City.

Rosie's Book Review team 1