blog tour · Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Review: The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli.

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Extract:

‘There’s no need to be unkind.’ The Death Dancer’s mouth bent up at the sideas she moved towards Safire. ‘Now, what’s behind that scarf you don’t want me to see?’ Safire took a step back, but those quick fingers snagged her sandskarf. The girl tugged it free, revealing Safire’s face.

(The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli. P. 65-66). 

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Synopsis:

Safire is now a soldier. She maintains the peace of Firaard – but there is one criminal she can’t catch. 

Eris, a pirate and known thief, is known as the Death Dancer. She has a reputation for evading capture made possible by her magical spindle, and the ability it gives her to vanish and reappear at will. She can evade everyone … except the pirate who holds her captive. 

Safire and Eris are thrown together when they are united by a common mission – to find Asha, the last Namsara. As they spend time together, they realise they may be bound by more than a common goal and that their fates may be inextricably entwined. 

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Review: 

The Last Namsara was one of the first major releases I was offered as a book blogger back in 2017. It is hard to imagine now that before it arrived I had little idea how phenomenally good it would turn out to be. Think dragons and fearless heroines and a story linked to its world’s mythology. Now the trilogy concludes with The Sky Weaver. 

The story is centered around two characters. Pirate Eris has a deadly reputation and a strange skill that enables her to vanish and reappear anywhere else at will. Safire, familiar to readers of the first book, is now a soldier and catching Eris becomes her own personal mission. Then the pair find themselves on a common mission – to find the last Namsara Asha. 

It is a classic enemies-to-lovers storyline which promises to be a great yarn from the beginning. The early chapters make it seem impossible that the pair could ever find anything in common, but that is what makes this trope so timeless. It tells the eternal truth that sometimes we can work together in spite of insurmountable differences and that in doing so we can find previously unimagined common ground. 

Both girls narrate. Seeing Safire as a protagonist will be a big draw for established fans of the series because she was the character who was both of the incredible court world and an outsider – or the relatable insider. It is also interesting, having seen her root for and protect Asha, to see Safire begin from a position of distrust and enmity.

As in previous books, a myth is built up alongside the main story. No spoilers – readers of the series will know that clues about the main story can be found in these myths – but this time the myth is about Crow and The Fisherman’s Daughter. 

Now that the trilogy is complete, I look forward to reading the three books together. The overlap of characters and plotlines between them is fascinating and confirms Ciccarelli as a strong and ambitious storyteller. 

 

The Sky Weaver was provided as part of a promotional blog tour. Opinions remain my own. Thanks to Gollancz for my copy.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

Review: The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

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Synopsis:

If history has taught us one thing it is that wherever there is trouble, there is also a Fowl.

Myles and Beckett Fowl have a lot to live up to. Their brother Artemis is a super genius whose many adventures with the fairies brought him to fame, until he finally became a scientist and went to Mars. Fortunately the Fowl Twins aren’t feeling the pressure. Myles is an even greater genius, and Beckett speaks multiple languages including dolphin and troll. He also has gummy sweets to cheer himself up.

Unfortunately, their famous family has gained lots of attention in the past. There are people who would use Myles and Beckett to get at another group entirely – the fairies. Like sister Jeronima, the nunterrogator, and Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye the notorious faerie hunter.

What will happen when a troll, two Fowl children, a non-magical Pixel, a nun and a murderous Lord get entangled in the same business?

Mayhem. Fowl style.

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Review:

Eoin Colfer is back with a new series set in the world of Artemis Fowl. The new stories will focus on Artemis’s little brothers, Myles and Beckett, and this first adventure suggests they are about to steal the limelight. It all begins shortly after the boys’ eleventh birthday, when they befriend a troll who is on the run from known faerie-killer Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye.

What happens next establishes the first bonds between the twins and the faerie realm.

The boys are both strong characters. Myles is eleven going on fifty-five. He dislikes childish nonsense, phrases which are not strictly logical and being bested by his elder brother Artemis (noted space scientist and three times a PHD). Beckett embraces childhood, relaxation time and opportunities for jokes. He is made interesting my his love of nature – he has a bond with every living thing, animal, faerie or otherwise – and an intuitive grasp of non-human languages. He also pretends not to understand his brother just to keep a healthy balance. Neither boy is driven by criminal activity like the young Artemis, because the Fowls have put criminal genius behind them for good. Almost. Possibly.

The faeries are well represented too. Lazuli is a Pixel who works for LEP. She’s unusual in that her magic has never woken up. Like Holly Short before her, Lazuli is unafraid to break the rules, especially if it means helping a faerie in danger. Like Whistle Blower the toy troll (so named by Beckett because he squeaks) who is at the centre of the entire commotion.

One of the most interesting characters in the story isn’t human at all. NANNI is the AI system designed by Artemis (with a little input from Myles) to look after the twins, who communicate to her via Myles’s hi-tech glasses. NANNI has greater depths than anyone has realised and looks set to become as big a character as the twins themselves.

What makes the book for me is Colfer’s masterful narration. His prose has such skill about it that as a reader you relax into it, confident that however improbable the actions of a scene there is no doubt that Colfer has all the threads of the story in hand. And possibly some amazing tricks alongside them. As an aspiring author I was especially taken by the balance of action and narration – this is one of those things which everyone strives to perfect and the wonderful thing about learning from this story is that Colfer’s narrator is so clearly having fun.

Artemis Fowl was one of the major book series of my millennial childhood. Think faeries meets gadgets meets criminal genius. The twins are more hyper, less prone to criminal intent and happier to roll with events than their elder brother, which gives the book a different tone to the original series.

These are the Gen Z Fowls and everyone – devoted readers and new, older and young – will be delighted to meet.

 

Thanks to Riot Communications and Harper Collins Children’s Books for my ARC of The Fowl Twins. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Pages & Co – Tilly And The Lost Fairytales by Anna James.

Review: Pages & Co – Tilly And The Lost Fairytales by Anna James.

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Extract:

She looked around, searching for the source of the smell, and was surprised to see, through the window, that the train was running through a deep, dark forest. Tilly was sure there weren’t any forests of this size within a twenty-minute train ride of north London, and yet there it was. The trees seemed to crowd in on every side, as if they were trying to reach inside the train with their spindly branches. 

(Pages & Co – Tilly And The Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James. PP. 99 – 100.)

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Synopsis:

Following the disappearance of Enoch Chalk, whose antics caused Tilly and her friends no end of trouble, a new Head Librarian is appointed at the Underlibrary. Melville Underwood’s policies restrict the movements of adult Book Wanderers, and ban children from the practice altogether.

Tilly is alarmed by this appointment but she has other things on her mind. Her Grandmother has forbidden her from book wandering altogether, but strange things are happening with fairy tales and Tilly wants to explore. Should she listen to her Grandmother, or to Gretchen – a lady she meets in Paris whose view is that book wandering should be completely unrestricted.

Feeling the pressure to pick a side, Tilly must figure out the best way forward to protect the beloved stories from the mysterious changes.

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Review:

The sequel to Pages & CO – Tilly and The Book Wanderers is here, and it lives up to the first story. This series turns the magic of reading into a literal world where people can wander in and out of stories and a hidden library monitors their movements and the security of the texts. It is also a brilliant fantasy and the second book sees a new antagonist and a sense of sides building and action brewing.

What is the same? The same sense of a secret bookish community, the references to sweet treats (which adds to the book nostalgia because some of the best children’s classics contain heavy references to food) and the same world of book wandering and underlibraries. We meet some new characters, including the ambiguous Gretchen, and visit some new places (both real and in the bookscape, so to speak).

The story was more complex in that it didn’t move exactly as I predicted. First we were introduced to the new Head Librarian and then the action moved away to Paris and to the fairy tales which Tilly first read and later explored as a book wanderer. I loved how the threads came together and especially the growing sense that something wasn’t quite right within the fairy tales.

Oskar comes out of himself too and claims a bit more of the spotlight. We meet his family in Paris which gives us a deeper insight into Oskar’s life. He’s a wonderful role model as a boy character because he is arty and gentle as well as practical and kind. It is clear that he doesn’t want to let Tilly take all the credit for their adventures, and quite right too.

Tilly is on her own mission too. She wants to know more about the Archivists, god-like beings who most book wanderers stopped believing in long ago.

Pages & Co has gained fans of all ages. It is the perfect nostalgia-fest for adult readers, who want to recapture that sense of being lost in the world of stories for hours on end. Child readers have taken to the series too, and I can’t imagine a more magical way to get acquainted with the classics. It is like an invitation to young people to join the world of reading and stories.

Tilly And The Lost Fairy Tales is a treat to read and it has made me excited about where the series is going.

 

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.

Review: Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.

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Extract:

‘I wish you were my nanijee,’ I say, my voice quivering. ‘I need her so much.’ A grey feather tinged with gold floats down and lands at my foot. I stroke its silky softness and weave it into my plait. ‘Perhaps I’ll call you my spirit bird.’ 

(Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. P24.)

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Synopsis:

Asha loves her home in the foot of the Himalayas, except that she misses her papa who works in the city. When debt collectors come to stake a claim on the house, Asha discovers that papa has stopped sending money. In fact, nobody has heard from him at all.

Determined that she won’t lose her home or go to England, Asha sets off on a journey to find her papa. She will have to cross the world’s highest mountains, facing the dangers which come with such a crossing. As hunger and tiredness set in, Asha seeks courage from a bird. She is certain this is the spirit of her nanijee, here to watch over her.

A story about friendship, determination and love.

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Review:

A beautiful and heartfelt story about a girl who would cross mountains to check up on her father.

Asha stands out as a protagonist is brave but not fearless, however fearless she may believe herself to be. She is motivated by love for her family and her home and acts out of necessity and not a reckless need to put herself in danger. She knows fear along the way but seeks assurance in her religious beliefs, particularly that the spirit of her grandmother is watching over her.

The settings are brought to life with sensory detail. I felt as if I had listened to the crickets, and sipped milk with cinnamon and smelt the rose petals in a local woman’s hut. It feels as though Jasbinder Bilan has not so much written a story as taken real places and brought them to life with a special magic.

Nanijee’s spirit brings a sense of security to the reader as well as to Asha. It was lovely to hear about Asha’s religious beliefs and to understand how they might have guided her along the journey. This would make a lovely book to read ahead of a  religious education unit because religious practice makes so much more sense when we understand how they guide a person’s life.

Asha’s friendship with Jeevan was another highlight. At first she has a rigid idea of what his help and friendship should look like, but as the story moves on she finds a different respect for him.

A courageous journey to remain at home with family. This is a beautiful book which I would recommend to anyone looking for a character with a fighting spirit.

 

Thanks to Chicken House Books for my gifted copy of Asha And The Spirit Bird. Opinions my own.

 

Middle Grade Reviews

Blog Tour: Across The Divide by Anne Booth

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Extract:

‘You can use something to symbolize something else. You can wear a flower and somehow it makes you think about someone getting killed. Except maybe we are too used to the image of poppies now, and don’t really think about what they mean anymore.’

(Across The Divide by Anne Booth. P78.)

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Olivia’s Mum has always had a thing about pacifism. She has embarrassed her daughter before by turning up at school with a box of white poppies. Olivia wishes Mum would keep quiet. They live in an army town, and lots of people find Mum’s ideas offensive.

Now school wants to open a cadet unit. Olivia feels torn between her veteran soldier grandfather and her pacifist mother. Worse than that, her friend Aidan refuses to join on the grounds of pacifism, and everyone at school takes sides.

When Mum is arrested following a protest, Olivia is sent to stay with her Dad who is renting a cottage on the island of Lindisfarne. There she has time to think over her torn friendships and to find out about the strange boy in an overcoat who she keeps seeing around the island.

birdReview:

This had so many story lines I loved. There is the story of Olivia’s debate about school. The mystery of William, the strange boy who stays at Lindisfarne Castle. The other story I liked was the relationship between Olivia and her Dad. Olivia’s parents were teenagers when she was born and she has been raised by her Grandparents and her Mother. Dad went away to uni and never looked back. Now Olivia is 14 and Dad is ready to be a parent. I thought the story was fair to both Olivia and Dad. I felt able to empathise with the scenario from both perspectives.

The themes of division and loyalty felt relevant to the current political climate. The novel looks at propaganda, freedom of speech and how quickly our political beliefs divide us. It focused a specific issue – whether cadet units should be attached to schools – and showed how people in a community can turn against one another and resort to propaganda and hatred instead of reasonable debate.

I liked how the contemporary story was more important than the time-slip. Olivia’s brush with the past allowed her to look at the present in a different way. An enjoyable and thought-provoking novel which made me want to seek out more from the author.

 

Thanks to LauraSmythe PR for organising the blog tour and for my ARC. Opinions my own.