Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Storm Hound by Claire Fayers

Review: Storm Hound by Claire Fayers

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Synopsis:

Jess Price finds the cutest puppy in a rescue centre, but it turns out he isn’t any ordinary dog. He is Storm of Odin, the youngest puppy in the wild hunt, and he is in danger.

Storm hounds are full of magic, a resource which is running short in the human world, and there are people who would kill Storm for his magic. Meanwhile, Jess can’t tell whether the new boy at school has an agenda of his own.

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Review:

A magical adventure with a big heart. I love stories about magic which are rooted in folklore and place, so it was a delight to read Storm Hound which is set in Wales. It imagines a world where the figures from mythology are an eternal presence. The magicians of stories past are as alive today as they were centuries ago.

The relationship between Storm and Jessica is beautiful, and I love Storm’s unique voice. Although he is a tiny puppy, he has the voice and attitude of an ancient god. He thinks an angry neighbour as the Valkyrie-Lady and refers to Jess as his human servant. If you like stories which give you an insight into the thoughts of other animals, this one is for you.

This is also a story about a family finding their new normal after an amicable split. Jessica and her brother are from London, and the Welsh countryside is outside their experience. They’ve left their friends and everything they know behind to be with their Dad. They adjust to this in different ways. It was nice to see a story about a break that wasn’t traumatic. Sometimes separation is a healthy and mutual choice. Although it hurts, young readers need stories where the characters move forward with a positive outlook.

A gentle sense of humour makes this stand out among middle-grade fantasy adventures. Although the threat is there, and it has the potential to change the world, this story never felt dark or frightening. It maintained that sense of wonder and humour which is unique to children’s literature.

After Mirror Magic in 2018, a book which swept me away, Clare Fayers had a hard act to follow. I have to admit I was turning the pages until I reached the conclusion and will be back here for her next story.

 

Thanks to Karen Bultiauw and Macmillan Children’s Books UK for my proof copy of Storm Hound. Opinions my own.

 

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic author Claire Fayers 

Mirror Magic is a middle grace fantasy about a world which is like ours, and yet unlike ours. It is about a girl called Ava who shares a connection with a Fair Folk boy. 

I am delighted to take part in the blog tour, and to welcome author Claire Fayers to my blog. 

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If William the Conqueror had Magic

Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example William the Conqueror had magic (and newspapers).

 

William the Conjuror Sets Sights on England

Inhabitants of southern England are today being urged to remain calm amid rumours that William, Duke of Normandy, is planning an invasion of the Kent coast.

Normandy is well known for its enchanted apples and it is feared that Duke William has singled out Kent as suitable land for an extension of his vast orchards.

Williams denies this. “The people of Normandy have a great fondness for Kent,” he said, speaking from his castle. “Many of us enjoy visiting in the summer months.”

Many French people have indeed been seen in Kent, measuring fields and complaining about the quality of the local cider.” Tourists or invaders? King Harold of England has so far declined to comment except to say he is aware of the situation.

 

Stamford Bridge Army ‘An Illusion’

The Norman army camped near Stamford Bridge in the north of England has proved to be a fairy illusion.

The deception was discovered too late for King Harold who had already marched all his forces north to meet the threat.

Meanwhile, a large number of tourists have arrived on the south coast from France and set up camp outside Hastings. “We are definitely not an army,” said William of Normandy, polishing his armour.

 

Harold Defeated at Hastings

Harold is dead. Long live King William of England.

After a fierce battle of arms and magic, King Harold has been defeated at Hastings. Harold, who was tricked into taking his army north, conjured a fairy road to travel back, but the journey exhausted his men and by the time they reached the Norman invaders, they were relying on magical energy potions.

Because of this, Harold insisted on keeping his magic mirror with him in the thick of battle. This proved his undoing when a stray arrow pierced the glass and Harold lost control of the Unworld. Witnesses report thick mist flowing from the broken mirror across the field of battle, turning the grass foul shades of orange and purple. Harold led a final, desperate charge at William’s mirror, but the Norman archers were ready and the king died under a hail of arrows.

 

Huge thanks to Claire Fayers for your wonderful post and to Karen Bultiauw for organising the blog tour. Mirror Magic is available from 14th June.

 

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers

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Extract:

‘…Mirrors are usually passed down from father to son, but they don’t have to be. It is said that the original conjurors had some fairy blood in them, which was why they could use the mirrors, and that ability runs through families.’ 

(Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers. P29.)

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Wyse is the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld. Ava and her brother Matthew are forced to return to Wyse following the death of their father. The once magical town is no longer so magical, and it is under the control of Lord Skinner. What does Lord Skinner want? Why is he so interested in Ava Harcourt?

Ava looks into a magical mirror and meets Howell, who lives in Unwyse in the magical Unworld. Howell is the only one of the Fair Folk without magic. It seems he is doomed to a life of drudgery until the sinister Mr Bones takes a special interest in him.

What is the connection between Lord Skinner and Mr Bones? Ava and Howell race to discover the truth and save the magic which connects the two worlds.

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Review:

An enchanting middle-grade fantasy. I love the setting: 1852, a town on the border between England and Wales, which happens to be the last place in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld. I loved that premise that reflections are something more than what we see in the mirror. That conjurors can bring magical mirrors to life and use them to communicate with the Unworld.

There are several mysteries set up early on in the story: what happened that Ava’s father cut ties with the magical world? Is the mark on Ava’s face really left over from measles? Why have the magical mirrors stopped working? Who is Mr Bones and why does he want The Book? The answers are all connected in a way which is not immediately apparent, and I love how the story affects people on both sides of the mirror.

The world building is sublime. From fairy-tat gift shops to the mirror station, it feels as if Claire Fayers has visited her world rather than invented it. I loved how the magical setting fitted neatly in with British history. Some people reckon The Industrial Revolution killed the need for magic, for example, and magic is developing alongside industrial progress.

The book of magic which Ava and Howell must protect has a mind of its own. It can see into the future. Words appear on its pages, sometimes warning the characters of imminent danger, at other times spouting about novels which have not yet been written or events which will happen in 60 years. It is a witty, snarky book. Excerpts from the book appear at the head of each chapter, and I imagine they will cause young readers great hilarity.

I enjoyed this story very much. It is a must for fans of James Nicol and Abi Elphinstone. A real gem.

 

Thanks to Karen Bultiauw and Macmillain Children’s Books for my copy of Mirror Magic. Opinions my own.