Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

Review: Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

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Extract:

The dust around Casper shifted and seemed to glitter in the half-light and it was then – in that hushed moment – that the Extremely Unpredictable Event occurred. 

The key Casper was holding now looked altogether different. Without the layer of dust covering it, he could see that it was not simply a dull lump of metal anymore. It was silver and in its base there was a turquoise gem, which was glowing. 

(Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone. P23.) 

 

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Synopsis:

Casper Tock is allergic to adventure. He lives by a timetable and believes in solid evidence and facts. It is the shock of his life when, first he stumbles into the magical world of Rumblestar and then he is told it is his job to save the world.

Utterly Thankless has lived in Rumblestar all her life. She’s a bottler-in-training, learning to contain the magic which creates weather. Life hasn’t been the same for Utterly since the terrible thing which she refuses to talk about.

Now the evil harpy Morg is awakening and her magic is once more a threat to the magical Unmapped Kingdoms. Can Casper, Utterly and their dragon friend Arlo work together to save the world from Morg and her Midnights?

A magical quest from the master of fantasy Abi Elphinstone.

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Review:

A harpy trapped in a void, a magical grandfather clock and a series of secret worlds where the weather is produced and sent to Earth. No writer should be able to pull all that off in one story, but Abi Elphinstone does so not only with ease but with apparent relish. She’s the kind of storyteller who seems to have a magical bag full of ideas which she ties together into brilliant narratives.

Rumblestar is the first book in the Unmapped Chronicles series, although the prequel Everdark was published on World Book Day. It helps to have read this, as the events of the story are referenced, although it is not strictly necessary.

Landscape always plays a part in Elphinstone’s world, from the Scottish Highland forests and rivers of the Dreamsnatcher trilogy to the icy lands of standalone novel Sky Song. For the first time, Elphinstone has invented her own lands to great effect. The Unmapped Kingdoms are where weather is invented. Each land is responsible for a different weather family, and Rumblestar is where the weather is processed and transferred to the world we know. Casper Tock’s world.

Rumblestar felt like something from Diana Wynne Jones. It is both a place where people live and work, and it is also the central part of a magical system. Reading this story made me feel as if I’d had my eyes shut to an important truth about our world, or maybe just that I should be searching for magic hidden just out of sight. This is the kind of story which makes readers believe that life is big and incredible, and that imagination is a powerful asset on our journey.

There was also an environmental message – one desperately needed given the current crisis. This was not invasive but it is important for readers to start thinking and caring about our world.

A book which is part fairytale and part breathtaking adventure. Another hit from Abi Elphinstone which will leave her readers dreaming of magical worlds.

 

 

 

Chat · Days Out · Round-Up

Event Round-Up: Abi Elphinstone at the Edinburgh festival.

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Her books are bestsellers, she’s sledded through the arctic in search of eagle hunters and her ancestor (according to the fun facts ahead of the event) plotted with Guy Fawkes. Abi Elphinstone writes middle-grade fantasy full of magic and animals and vast, untameable landscapes. I loved her writing from the word go and was delighted to see her at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 24.08.2018.

Elphinstone says her dream job – aside from being a writer – is to be a Blue Peter Presenter. I reckon they’d have her in a second. Her enthusiasm for her audience and her spirit of adventure made me think of Blue Peter long before she was asked her dream job by a member of the audience.

Her resounding message was you don’t have to be the cleverest person to be a writer. At the age of seven, Elphinstone’s life-ambition was to become a unicorn and it wasn’t until she was older that she found her way into writing through the places visited and things she saw in the natural world.

A slide-show of places which had inspired Elphinstone’s writing proved that adventures can be found closer to home as well as further away – from Tromso to some water off the M25, the outdoors has been a starting point for different aspects of Elphinstone’s writing.

I have never seen children so excited about reading. From pop-quizzes about arctic animals (with signed bookmark prizes) to the chance to try on a fox-fur hat, Elphinstone grabbed the attention of each and every child in her audience. This is what a book event should look like – excitement and chatter and children bouncing on their seats because they are so desperate to ask the next question.

Elphinstone’s final message was that she wrote four novels had had 96 rejections before publication. The people who get there, she says, are the ones who keep going no matter how many times they appear to fail. Failure is not finite. It is a stumble along the way. The audience (young and not so young) were left with more confidence in themselves and their eyes open for adventure. 

Following the event there was a signing. Having books signed and meeting authors is one of the most special and inspiring things about being a bookworm. Thank you very much to Abi Elphinstone for signing my books and for a memorable and uplifting talk. 

 

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

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Extract:

“I am not asking to hear your voice because I value your opinion. I am not asking to hear your voice because I care about your feelings. I am asking to hear your voice because I own you.’ Her eyes darkened. ‘You bear the mark of the Sky Gods Eska, the very Gods who used terrible magic to stir up hatred between the people of Erkenwald. But I will use your voice to tear the Sky Gods down and rid this kingdom of their evil forever.”

(Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone.) birdSynopsis:

One upon a time the three tribes of Erkenwald were united. Then the Ice Queen took power and the tribes no longer trusted one another. The Ice Queen grew stronger. She took all adults prisoner, and fed on their voices with the help of an enchanted organ. Every day the sound of their cries echoes across the ice as she grows stronger.

Eska refuses to give the Ice Queen her voice. She is imprisoned in a music box, and forced to dance until she gives in. When Flint breaks into the palace with the help of his magical inventions, Eska sees her chance to escape. Together they journey across the ice, desperate to prevent the Ice Queen from stealing Eska’s voice and making her reign immortal.birdReview:

Word perfect. Sky Song reads like a fairy tale. Every word is in place, every twist of the plot comes at the perfect time, and the world is so vivid there were times I imagined I could see my breath in the frozen air.

The Ice Queen is a wonderful antagonist, and a worthy successor to the White Witch. She is built in a similar mould, but Elphinstone’s touches make her unique enough that she is terrifying all over again. The idea of a ruler alone in her palace, growing stronger on the voices of her prisoners was chilling. We know from the start that this is a villain who shows no mercy.

Flint is also a great character and I liked his story arc. He is one of the last people in Erkenwald to take an interest in magic. When his brother calls his inventions childish and stupid, Flint doesn’t stand up to him. He wants his brother’s approval, and he wants to be seen as a warrior. Over the course of the novel we see Flint gain confidence in himself and his abilities, and learn that bravery is about love and standing up for those we love. It is great to see messages about gender stereotyping of boys. A lot of young boys feel pressured to hide their feelings and come across as ‘tough’, and this offers them other ways to think about themselves.

Sky Song is a story of tolerance and acceptance. I loved the metaphor of tribes and wanderers. The tribes begin the story isolated from each other, but wanderers like Eska make friends with different people along the way. It was lovely to see a character with a disability whose condition is not named and examined. Flint’s sister Blu has Down’s Syndrome. Flint explains that Blu needs patience and guidance at times, but otherwise Blu is just one of the characters. She has her moments of triumph alongside Eska and Flint. Sky Song calls for tolerance of people from different backgrounds, of different abilities and simply in any situation where we may not understand another person’s motives. If we could all be as tolerant as Eska, Flint and Blu, the world would be a beautiful place.

 

A huge thanks to Simon And Schuster for my wonderful prize ARC.

waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday – Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

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Synopsis:

sky-song-9781471146077_lgIn the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find. Because Erkenwald is ruled by the cruel Ice Queen and the tribes must stay hidden; if they are caught in the open they risk capture and imprisonment by the evil sorceress.

Join Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever, as they journey to the Never Cliffs and beyond in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to force the Ice Queen back.
 
This is a story about an eagle huntress, an inventor and an organ made of icicles. But it is also a story about belonging, even at the very edges of our world . . .birdWhy I can’t wait to read Sky Song:

The Dreamsnatcher trilogy is a favourite Middle Grade series. I’ve been with Moll and Gryff since the early days of publication, and took gutsy, determind Moll to heart. I love her world, and the concept of the Soul Splinter. I can’t wait to meet Eska and her eagle.

 

Elphinstone’s worlds are full of the great outdoors. You’d think most books are, but as I once heard, in some books the landscape is part of the story, and in others it is detail painted it. Both are reasonable approaches, but I love Elphinstone’s great landscapes.

 

An organ made of icicles. A cursed magic box. Elphinstone has written about how objects help her form stories, and I love this approach. It shows how stories come from the world around us. There is much talk of the organ on Twitter, and I can’t wait to learn more.

 

An ancient and forgotten song. It sounds like there is history to this world. I love worlds which come with their own folk-tales, their own historical narratives. 

The dark, cold nights after Christmas pass more quickly if we are absorbed in a good story. Early this year it was a Girl Called Owl. Stories of wintery magic are perfect for long, dark nights. 

 

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

January 2018

Simon and Schuster Children’s UK