Category Archives: magic

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks

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I liked the sound of the premise…

“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”
In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap. Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

I haven’t seen Gossip Girl but have read snippets of the Percy Jackson series and have thoroughly enjoyed the world, so this one intrigued me. However, it wasn’t quite what I had envisaged. For starters, the romance features more than I had expected from reading the blurb – and as the story wore on, I realised there was the dreaded love triangle. I am not a fan of this dynamic, but I will say that Marks manages to make it seem a lot less sleazy than is often the case, as the extra character’s involvement is far more to do with what happened in the distant past.

It did take me a while to fully bond with Sage as she is continually plagued with visions and dreams which have the effect of swamping her rather chippy character, after she works through the clueless phase when she is struggling to work out exactly what is happening to her. There is a dark, tragic underbelly to this story that the blurb hasn’t highlighted and it isn’t our hapless protagonist navigating the social shark-tank of demi-god high society that I had envisaged – but the desperate story of a maddened Celtic queen who slays her king that eventually snagged me.

Given I was expecting something quite different – was what I got sufficiently engrossing to hook me anyway? Oh yes. There are some surprising plot twists in this story, particularly towards the end where the pace picks up and the stakes become a lot higher which had me reading into the early hours to discover what happened.

Be warned though – while a couple of the story elements are sorted out, this book ends on an almighty cliff-hanger. I’m hoping, therefore, that the second book is due to be released without too much delay as I would really like to know what happens next to Sage.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

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I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – My, what big teeth you have…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is featuring a cloaked figure, so I’ve gone with Spellwright by Blake Charlton.

 

This cover, produced by Tor Books in March 2010, is dramatic and beautiful with the young apprentice trying to cast a spell on the battlements of the college. I love the setting, with the stone carvings and the city off in the distance – there is a nice touch with two moons in the sky and for me, the finishing touch is that lovely title font. This is my favourite cover.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in March 2011. I like this one – the ball of glowing letters against the green background is eye-catching and attractive. My main concern is that I’m not sure if it fully conveys a fantasy read about a dyslexic wizard – I think it might be for a science fiction genetic disaster adventure.

 

Published in May 2010 by Harper Voyager, this is another effective and dramatic cover featuring young Nicodemus, the young wizard who cannot accurately spell the… spells he is casting. I have a soft spot for this one, although it doesn’t surpass the first cover for beauty or drama.

 

Produced in September 2010 by Prószyński Media, this dramatic Polish cover is giving us a very dramatic rendition of the antagonist who is plotting to control young Nicodemus. However, I am concerned that prospective readers might get a completely different idea about this book – while there is plenty of action in Spellwright, it isn’t particularly gory or horrific.

 

This Spanish offering, published in November 2011 by Versátil Ediciones is yet another eye-catching and attractive cover. But I think this one is even more liable to confuse the reader as to the genre of this book – with those letters and the vivid green starburst, I think this one could be mistaken as a biological disaster adventure story. What do you think and which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

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This one caught my eye owing to the fabulous cover and the idea of time travelling via a tatty old watch.

Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch. When sexy and mysterious Alyx saves his life, she promises answers. She talks of dimension travel, and wears a magical watch of her own…

I’ll be honest, I really struggled in the beginning stages of this one. The dialogue is rather clunky, which inhibited the characterisation, while both Chase and Alyx seem far younger than the average eighteen year old. I’ll accept that Alyx might be rather young for her age, but it was Chase’s character that appeared to be all over the place. And just as I was about to seriously consider consigning it to the DNF pile – the action finally kicked off and the book sprang to life.

Jackson’s writing tightened up and as she described the grim transformation in the parallel dimension, with the horrifying event that defines the rest of the narrative, I didn’t want to put this one down. Chase’s shock and gritted determination to fight back gave his personality a strength of purpose and clarity he had previously lacked, while I really enjoyed Alyx’s rather peeved response to his reaction. This sets up an interesting dynamic between them, which hooked me in and had me caring.

While the worldbuilding in the alternative dimension is rather sketchy, with very few details as to how the USA was so quickly conquered, I was prepared to give the author a pass on that one, given the real drama she managed to create. In the meantime, the long-running battle between the Hunters and Keepers goes on and the story is brought to a satisfying ending.

This story is recommended for fans of multi-dimensional travel at the younger end of the YA age range.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Keeper by Kim Chance

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I really liked the look of the cover – and the words witch and bookworm turning up in the same paragraph meant I was scurrying to request this YA offering.

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

As the rest of the blurb is somewhat chatty, I have decided to leave it out. Lainey is an endearing protagonist whose genuine shock upon finding a hidden layer of her life had me immediately on her side. The inevitable loss of pace as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her is nicely mitigated by her loyal, geeky friend who and watches scads of supernatural/superhero stories and is beside herself with excitement to find that her life is suddenly mirroring those of her heroes. Chance is deft with the humour while keeping up the pace and tension. And indeed, the pace never truly lets up as Lainey is confronted with one disturbing truth after another, as the situation becomes ever more desperate. For she is confronted with a truly horrible antagonist. I very much like the fact that despite never leaving Lainey’s viewpoint, we become fully aware of just what a nasty piece of work The Master is. We are also very clear as to why he is so strongly motivated to get hold of her and while she is ‘the chosen one’ that rapidly becomes far more of a life-shortening burden as Chance relentlessly continues to ramp up stakes. This book became quite difficult to put down once we reached a certain stage.

The inevitable romance was well handled, though I was intrigued when Lainey’s ear tips kept getting hot every time she was too close to her heartthrob. I was pleased to see that the romance stayed firmly within the bounds of the YA genre and didn’t stray into New Adult territory. As ever in a successful fantasy adventure, the supporting characters were also key to providing a rounded, entertaining story that kept the pages turning. And just when I thought I knew where this one was headed, it took off into another direction.

At present, it is being presented as a stand-alone, however, I really would like to see what happens next, and I am hoping this story is sufficiently successful that the publishers will request another book. I, for one, want to read more about Lainey and that grimoire…
8/10

Sunday Post – 28th January, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I am now getting the hang of fitting in my extra Creative Writing class on Tuesday evening, which is now starting to feel like routine. That said, I can’t remember when so many students were absent with illnesses. I’m hoping the coming week will see everyone recovered and back attending the classes. On Thursday, my sister came shopping with us as Himself had the day off and then later she joined us for a meal in the evening. The wonders of technology had Himself and my son Rob, who is currently in the States, playing Bloodbowl together via their computers after our meal.

Yesterday was a special day I won’t forget in a hurry – I got to see my unborn granddaughter on screen in such amazing detail that I wept. My daughter decided to go for a gender scan and invited us grannies along, with the rest of the family. A magical experience. Today I shan’t be around much, because we are off to celebrate my lovely stepfather’s 70th birthday. We are taking him to one of his favourite restaurants and hopefully the rain and gloom will ease up sufficiently so that the drive is less slog in the mirk and more of an enjoyable drive in the countryside. In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely day and that the weather is at least bearable, if not kind.

This week I have read:

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker
Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive. An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses.

Yes… I know – this has to be one of the longest blurbs in history, but it also nicely sums up this entertaining and rather frightening non-fiction read. If you regularly don’t get between eight to nine hours of sleep a night and have kidded yourself it really doesn’t much matter than you don’t – then this book is required reading.

 

Keeper by Kim Chance
When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After the rather disturbing read earlier in the week, this is just what I needed – lots of magical mayhem around a sympathetic protagonist and a completely dastardly villain. Great stuff! Review will be following in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 21st January, 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Keeper by Kim Chance

Review of Netgalley arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

Friday Face-off – The grass is always greener over the septic tank… featuring The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

My 2017 Reading Year – the Statistics

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Space Features of the Week (27 January) http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/01/27/space-features-week-27-january/ Steph brings another wonderful roundup of all that is going on – I love the idea of the Tesla on Mars and do check out that NASA video of the unfurling solar panels…

Chai Break: How positively have authors responded to your negative reviews? https://thisislitblog.com/2018/01/27/chai-break-how-positively-have-authors-responded-to-your-negative-reviews/ The bad behaviour of some authors when confronted by bad reviews is a frequent hot topic on book blogging sites, so I really enjoyed reading this more uplifting take on the subject.

The Difference Between Young Adult and New Adult…And Why It’s Important http://www.momwithareadingproblem.com/2018/01/difference-young-adult-new-adult-important/ This is a particularly gnarly issue if you have young teens keen to read anything they can get their hands on – and I agree with Lillian, it’s important.

Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where The Times Goes? https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/01/04/sandy-denny-who-knows-where-the-time-goes/ Once again, the marvellous Thom Hickey takes me to a place I didn’t know I wanted to go – from this haunting song, he transitions to a wonderful passage from the Old English writings of Bede, which then had me hunting for the translation… Magical and moving. I’m now going to be looking for the writings of Bede. Thank you Thom!

31 brand new animal species discovered by amateur naturalists – https://redpenofdoom.com/2018/01/25/31-brand-new-animal-species-discovered-by-amateur-naturalists/ This quirky blogger has an offbeat sense of humour and this item had me laughing out loud – and wishing that some of these names actually existed…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a wonderful week.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 24th January, 2018

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Keeper by Kim Chance

#fantasy #YA #magic #witchcraft

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

Being the shallow sort, I was first lured into checking out this one because of the rather scrummy cover – but I also really liked the idea. Yep – I know it’s been done before, but right now, after being traumatised by my current read, I could do with some magical mayhem!

Friday Faceoff – Man is a knot into which relationships are tied…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a knot or knots, so I’ve selected Daughter of the Forest – Book 1 of the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier.

 

This cover, produced by Tom Doherty Associates in February 2002, has a lovely Celtic feel about it – and the reason why I’ve selected it, is for the Celtic knot detail on the F. I really like this cover, as the cover content and overall feel aligns well with the beautifully told story. The only thing that spoils it is that ugly red text box running along the bottom.

 

This Portuguese edition was produced by Bertrand Editora 2002 has a similarly lyrical feel. The artwork is lovely and I particularly like the moody colour palatte of greens and blues, while the Celtic knotwork and the swan motif top and bottom is delightful. My only grumble about this one is the bright orange font, which is jarring. Despite that, this is the one I like best – although this week there aren’t any I dislike.

 

Published in 2001 by HarperCollins, this cover features a forest exactly as I’d envisaged the one within the book – dark and full of gnarled tree roots and tangled vegetation. It’s nice to have the brothers on the river bank, too. While I appreciate why we have the scene with the swans flying above the knotwork, I do think it gives the cover a rather odd appearance.

 

This HarperCollins edition, published in October 2015, is clearly going for a more modern feel with the plain black cover featuring the swan. It is certainly eye-catching, but if I didn’t know this wonderful book is the first in an awesome series, I don’t think I would pick it off the shelves.

 

This German edition, produced by Knaur in April 2011, is also lovely. The golden suffused light as the backdrop works really well and I like the fact that Sorcha is in the background, with the swans in the foreground swimming towards her. The only thing that isn’t quite right is her reflection. Which is your favourite?

My Outstanding Books of 2017

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Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

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I was drawn to this one by the lovely cover and interesting premise. The idea of using shadows to weave magic intrigued me so I requested it from Netgalley.

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar. Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal…

I’m leaving it at that as far as the blurb is concerned as I think it gives rather too much away. However, I found this book far more of a nuanced read than I had been expecting. Emmeline is feared by the servants and barely tolerated by her parents, who are clearly at a loss to know what to do about her. Left to her own devices, she spends her time sneaking around the grounds and the house, eavesdropping on conversations and playing tricks on the servants, or playing with the shadows.

I very much liked the fact that as her circumstances change and she finds herself with other people, she slowly begins to question her own behaviour. This isn’t a quick transformation and the book is as much about Emmeline’s own self-realisation as it is about the story of her emerging magic. The worldbuilding is well handled. Initially we don’t know all that much about what is going on in the wider world, apart from the snippets that Emmeline gleans from her snitching expeditions. However, as she leaves the family home and encounters other people, she learns just how much people with her gifts are being hunted and what they have to do to evade capture and a terrible fate. I very much liked the idea that people are invested with magic if they are born when a particular comet passes over every twenty-five years.

Emmeline’s growth and increasing discomfort with her own behaviour is one of the main themes throughout the book, as is the comparison with dark and light. While the imagery is obvious, it works well and is well aimed at a young audience. There is plenty going on in this well-written, pleasingly plotted book to keep an independent reader between the ages of 9-12 engrossed and I thoroughly recommend it. While I obtained an arc of Shadow Weaver from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10