Review of KINDLE Ebook The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWatchmaker’sDaughterbookreview

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This is one of those books that popped up my Kindle a while ago, thanks to Himself’s Amazon shopping spree.

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch…

This is as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to share, as the rest intrudes far too much into the storyline. But this book possesses a marvellous opening – one of the best I’ve read in a long while, which immediately hooked me, making me care for the protagonist at her most angry and desperate.

I really liked India. I found her spiky intelligence and refusal to buckle to the social conventions of the time very endearing. I was rather disappointed to learn later in the book that rather being the very plain, and unattractive person she believes herself to be, she is actually the classically beautiful damsel in distress. At the heart of this book is a life-threatening puzzle that India has to unravel in order to secure her future and save the life of another main character. Running right alongside this puzzle, is a romance.

It is a moot point whether it is the puzzle or the romance that powers the narrative, but because the romance heavily features in this fantasy adventure, the book inevitably falls into certain rhythms and plotpoints. That said, this is a well written, romantic adventure, peopled throughout by strong, well depicted characters into a detailed vivid world. I liked the fact that India is no simpering victim who falls back on her looks in order to establish a future for herself. The story behind the watches is an intriguing one and pulled me along, despite the fact I figured out who had done what to whom fairly early on. In the event, I was completely wrong. Highly recommended for fans of historical romantic fantasy.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad series by Scott Reintgen #Brainfluffbookreview #Nyxiabookreview

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I’ve been seeing this one around and hearing lots of good things about it, so when it became available on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted when I was approved to read it.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I have seen various references to Red Rising and The Hunger Games series in relation to this one and they are both apt. There is an ongoing contest where those who lose will never get to land on Eden and as you’d expect from a competition with such high stakes, there are some savage tactics employed. I really liked Emmett’s reluctance to adopt the most ruthless, violent route to try to achieve a place on Eden – and the fact that though he is very poor, he is also from a tight-knit, loving family. The cultural diversity of the youngsters taking part worked well and Reintgen managed to keep up the pace and tension throughout, despite the relatively large number of characters he was handling.

There is a steady progression of unpleasant discoveries about the project and the substance nyxia as the youngsters are mercilessly drilled and pitted against each other in order to hone their skills in mining and controlling nyxia, while coping with the environment. Eden doesn’t sound remotely like paradise if these exercises are any indication of the conditions prevailing on the alien planet. I like the fact that Emmett isn’t one of those who is right at the top – instead he is bumping along at the bottom and in constant danger of being flushed out of the project.

It was a shock when a couple of likeable, major characters died along the way, which raised the stakes and made it harder to put the book down. The ending is well handled, bringing the book to a climactic conclusion with another nasty surprise that genuinely made my jaw drop – I love it when that happens…

Any niggles? I could have done without the romance. It felt rather tacked on and certainly added nothing to the storyline. However, it’s not a dealbreaker and I am keen to read the next book in this trilogy, Nyxia Unleashed. While I obtained an arc of Nyxia from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 11th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Immortal Creators – Book 2 in the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers

40% “Have you read her books?” Dylan challenged.
“No,” Scott admitted, “but I don’t have to. I’ve met her, and that was plenty of insight into her head for me. The last thing I want is to let her talk at me for eighty thousand words uninterrupted.” He shuddered at the thought.

BLURB: Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.

Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.

This one starts with a bang as Scott finds he is an Immortal Writer and that the lethal alien armada featured in his book is on the point of actually invading Earth… So far, this is proving to be an eventful, enjoyable YA read.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson #Brainfluffbookreview #SalvationsFirebookreview

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This has got to be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year so far, given how much I enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Redemption’s Blade. I was particularly intrigued that Justina Robson wrote this sequel, using Tachaikovsky’s world.

The Tzarkomen necromancers sacrificed a thousand women to create a Bride for the Kinslayer so he would spare them in the war. But the Kinslayer is dead and now the creation intended to ensure his eternal rule lies abandoned by its makers in the last place in the world that anyone would look for it. Which doesn’t prevent someone finding her by accident. Will the Bride return the gods to the world or will she bring the end of days? It all depends on the one who found her, Kula, a broken-hearted little girl with nothing left to lose.

So does this one work? Oh yes – this is an amazing premise. The Bride returning to the world long after the tyrant she was designed to partner, has been vanquished. What is her purpose now? And perhaps even more importantly – what will she decide to do, now her bridegroom is dead? The opening sequences surrounding the circumstances where we see the Bride return are really gripping, though I have a hunch if you haven’t read Redemption’s Blade, you might not appreciate the importance of the place and significance of what is happening. This is one sequel that should not be read as a stand-alone, in my opinion – apart from anything else it would be a crying shame to miss out on the joy that is Redemption’s Blade.

Part of the fun of reading a series is to chart the development of the main characters. If I have a niggle with this particular story, it is that Celestine, whose energy and concerns pinged off the pages in the first book, is a pale shadow in this adventure. While she is constantly around, I did find it frustrating not to have her opinions as vibrantly represented as in Tchaikovsky’s tale.

The other issue, which is more of an observation rather than a criticism, is that Robson’s style is denser than Tchaikovsky’s and I had to slow down and pay more attention to the text than when reading the first book. That said, I am a fan of Justina Robson’s writing – see my review of Down to the Bone – and am familiar with her style. I was fascinated to see how each author presented this interesting, complex world. I very much enjoyed the strong relationship between the newly resurrected Bride and the orphaned child, Kula – it isn’t often we see any form of parental relationships explored in science fiction and fantasy and I was delighted to watch how this partnership developed throughout the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would be happy to see Angry Robot approach another author to take this story on further. Or maybe have both Tchaikovsky and Robson follow up their efforts with another book each. However it’s done, I really, really hope this series continues – there is so much more I would like to know about these characters and this world. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy with a difference. While I obtained an arc of Salvation’s Fire: After the War from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Mirror, mirror on the wall… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is the word QUEEN. I’ve selected Queen Lucia – Book 1 of the Mapp and Lucia novels by E.F. Benson.

 

This edition was produced by Wildside Press in August 2003. I think the figure raising the crown to her head is particularly apt, given the content, but the rest of it is just wrong. This book charts the power struggle of two society figures striving to be the arbiter of taste and culture in a small ex-pat community. It’s all about light and brightness – harshly so at times… So why anyone thought a gloomy old offering like this would work is beyond me. They haven’t even got the font right.

 

Published in February 1984 by Black Swan Books, this cover is far more appropriate. I love this depiction of a key scene in the book which brings out the period detail and I’m pleased to see the font is spot on. My one niggle is that border which cramps the lovely artwork, adding nothing to the period detail or appeal of the cover.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Impedimenta in September 2011 is beautiful. I love the stylised scene. Whereas the previous cover is crowded with lots going on, this is far more stripped back, featuring the two beautifully dressed women. The detail of the light fitting on the wall adds to the period feel and the colouring and design is sheer class. However the title and author fonts are too small and in the wrong font.

 

This edition, produced by Harper Perennial in March 1987 has nailed the period feel. We have Her Majesty seated on her throne in all her glory, while the border detail and font are all part of the design and add to the appeal of the cover, rather than feeling like an afterthought. I would have liked that wonderful image to dominate more, though.

 

This Italian edition has it all. The beautifully dressed woman, with her hand on her hip and dressed to kill, glares out at us, taking no prisoners. The colour scheme is bright and beautiful, the detailing wonderful. Those pillars framing the image are spot on, giving the artwork that 1920s outline. And the title and author text is the right size, right font and in the right place. This is my favourite – but what do you think? Do you agree with me?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 5th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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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 – A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe

#portal fantasy #adventure #feisty heroine #magical monsters

What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?

Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.

Raine and her companions find sanctuary amongst the famed warriors of the snow-capped nation of Finlara, and Raine is reunited with her dear friend, the frost giant Tiny Bartog. In short order, she unearths a magic mirror, a dread curse, and a tragic, ill-fated love affair.

Safety, however, is an illusion. The dreaded Magog’s Eye is still missing, and war looms. It seems an entire world hangs in the balance, waiting to see whether Raine will be able to harness her magic. But with a little help from her friends, she’ll survive . . . she hopes.

This one is great fun, with lots of magical creatures and Raine’s happy knack for making friends keeps her alive in this vibrant, fascinating but lethal world where she has made a very powerful enemy. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and will be reviewing it in due course.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Menageriebookreview

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I like this author – see my review of Pride which also has something to say about the modern world within her escapist fantasy story. So when I saw the third book in this series featured on Netgalley, I requested it and when I was approved and realised that this wasn’t one I could crash into – I got hold of the previous two books in the series.

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

And there you have it. Creatures which are not fully human are rounded up, stripped of any rights, caged and put on display for the public. Other than the direct, uncomfortable example of what we often do to the animals we share this planet with – what I kept thinking about was those who are trafficked and sold into slavery. The justification for this treatment is an event called the Reaping, where thousands of children were slaughtered by their parents under some mysterious compulsion that has never been fully explained – except that it is believed to be by a creature with non-human powers.

This dystopian, alternative history is well established and I thoroughly believed in Delilah, an apparently ordinary twenty-five-year-old bank teller who reluctantly goes along to one of these carnivals with her friends and fiancé. The ensuing incident sees her stripped of any of her human rights and put in a cage right along the other specimens on display. I really enjoyed following her journey – it was engrossing and horrifying. Though it did jar with me when we were occasionally yanked out of her first-person viewpoint, finding ourselves in the point of view of one of the supporting characters. It didn’t happen sufficiently often with the same characters for it feel anything other than a bit random.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Delilah makes a convincing protagonist and I enjoyed how many of the imprisoned exhibits looked after each other. The pace is well judged, as you’d expect from a writer of her experience and I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Recommended for fans of character-led, darker fantasy and no romance.
9/10

Sunday Post – 2nd September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

Apologies for having gone dark on the blog, but I was staying with my sister-in-law in Bexhill, who booked a flat with a sea view while she grappled with her thesis and invited me to join her last week. In doing so, I ticked off one of my bucket list wishes – writing in a round room with views of the sea from every window… It was glorious. I kept looking up and pinching myself to check I actually was there. The cherry on top was that the weather was lovely except for one rainy morning and Celia and I get along really well together and found writing together helped both of us.

As a result, in the three days I was staying there I managed to write over 16,000 words of Mantivore Preys, the second book in my series about telepathic alien, Vrox. I returned from the writing break feeling more refreshed and relaxed than I’ve felt for months. It was lovely to see Himself again – especially as he met me in Brighton to help me negotiate my very heavy cases on and off the train home.

Mhairi spent the day with me yesterday as we discussed all things writing and poked the Marketing dragon with a sharp stick. I hope you have all had a great week and I look forward to catching up with everyone during the week.

This week I have read:

A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe
What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?

Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.
I regularly crash into the middle of series and don’t find it a problem, but I think I would have benefitted from having read the first book in this series. That said, I found Raine an enjoyable, sympathetic protagonist and the various adventures engrossing. The outstanding feature of this book was the variety of the magical monsters on offer, along with the excellent scene-setting.

The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttell
Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers.

But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers … If she lives long enough to find it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. School-based stories are a weakness of mine, anyway. But Nuttell really nails the sympathetic young protagonist in this engrossing children’s book that is too good to leave to the youngsters. Ideal for fans of Harry Potter…

Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter.

The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity.

But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.
This is the final book in this disturbing dystopian fantasy in an alternative world where supernatural creatures used to live alongside humans peacefully – until the Reaping. I was sort of expecting more of the same gritted struggle to stay hidden by this small band, who are desperate not to be caught again. I hadn’t expected to also get a ringside seat at the Reaping, the defining event which led to the persecution of all supernatural races. This gripping final instalment answers all sorts of questions raised in the previous two books and successfully brought the series to an amazing and emotional climax.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th August 2018

Review of Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Apologies but this week I am unable to feature other articles and blogs as I normally do, because I haven’t been browsing online – I’ve been writing, instead. Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister #Brainfluffbookreview #KindredSpiritbookreview

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I wanted a break from my usual diet of SFF reads and this cover caught my eye. I requested it, as I generally like the output from Severn House Publishing, who release a steady stream of well written and well edited crime and adventure fiction.

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

That is half the blurb, but it gives you a good idea of what is going on. And no… I haven’t read any of the previous four books in the series – I did my usual trick of crashing midway into this series and once again, got away with it. Bannister drops in any details about the protagonists’ backstory that impacts on the action and characterisation without resorting to any info dumps. It helps that both characters are good people striving to do their best under tricky conditions. Gabriel Ash has clearly had a torrid time of it in previous books and is busy putting his life together as a single father running a book shop. Clever, sensitive and rather battered, he also has a dog who communicates telepathically with him… he thinks.

Hazel Best is a bright, determined woman whose police career has been compromised by previous shenanigans earlier in the series. One of the few people who now give her the time of day, other than a rather busy Gabriel, is Dave Gorman, her superior. When she gets a bee in her bonnet about exactly who was the target in the attempted kidnapping outside the school, events take off.

This well-written police procedural rolls forward at a reasonable clip, with a good mix of possible suspects. My one grizzle is the dog’s role in unravelling the mystery – given that everything else is so very much set in the world of fact, the dog chatting to Gabriel didn’t convince me. I would have preferred it if this had been left more open so that while Gabriel thinks it’s down to the dog, the rest of us could see another option – and if Bannister intended it to read like that, she didn’t quite succeed.

However, that isn’t a dealbreaker. I would happily pick up another book in this series and it is recommended for fans of cosy crime, particularly dog lovers. While I obtained an arc of Kindred Spirit from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroBlessingbookreview

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Himself has added this to our towering TBR and given I have a real weakness for school-based adventures, I snagged this one for a recent train journey.

Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers. But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers. If she lives long enough to find it.

Caitlyn is an endearing protagonist. She comes from a magical talented family and is one of triplets. In magical circles, this is regarded as a boon because twins and triplets often have complimentary powers, making them an especially powerful unit – a necessary advantage if the Aguirre family are to keep their position as one of the leading magical families. But while both sisters are extremely gifted, Caitlyn cannot summon a single thing. Not that her parents are prepared to give up and accept the situation. Magic is part of everyday life. Everyone has some sort of magical ability – even the servants and lower orders use magic in their everyday lives. Except Caitlyn.

It means she is at the mercy of her sisters’ pranks and while her parents occasionally step in to prevent her being killed, from the time she is seven, Caitlyn is routinely turned into frogs, dogs and mice, hexed so she behaves in stupid ways, magically frozen, stuck to the floor and even blinded… Of course, it all eventually wears off. But she, with her zero ability, has nothing to fight back with.

Her only recourse is to study as hard as she can, in the hope that eventually, she will grow into her magic, as her father keeps promising. But by the time she is twelve, she has all but given up. Which is when she receives the worst news of all. She will be accompanying her sisters to the magical academy, St Jude’s. She is half convinced that she won’t survive the first term – because students are mostly supervised by older prefects, who are desperately studying for their magical finals. So it’s left to the juniors to sort themselves out – it’s no good Caitlyn running to sharp-tongued Sandy for help when one of the girls in her dorm targets her.

I loved the dynamic – it was all too plausible that this would go on in a magical establishment. I also liked the fact that Caitlyn’s only friend is a peasant girl on a scholarship who is naturally extremely magically giftedbut with no grounding in theory or how to mix with the higher orders. Nuttall’s magical system is also interestingly complex and the rules are well covered within the story as Caitlyn struggles through some magical lessons and manages to cope better in others by virtue of her constant studying.
Her plight is both believable and engrossing, so that I gobbled up this book in two sittings. I’m delighted to see there are other books in this series, which I’ll definitely be tracking down. Recommended for fans of magical school stories.
9/10