Archive for the ‘fantasy’ Category

Children are being hunted in the streets and their parents’ hearts frozen into glass.  Brannon and his team of “unusual crimes” investigators are still reeling from the aftermath of Risen in Kalanon, but now they must face a new monster on the loose.
Tensions between Kalanon and Nilar are on the rise once more as Ylani and the King clash.  Meanwhile, Taran’s past haunts him and the church may not be the sanctuary it once was.  Monsters come in many forms and Taran knows this better than most. Once you’ve been a Child of Starlight,can you ever truly be free?
Failing to solve this new string of murders could cost the missing children their lives, Kalanon its future, and one of their team his sanity
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Starlight’s Children: Agents of Kalanon Book 2

Darian Smith

Wooden Tiger

Purchased at Conclave 3

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

The fantasy mystery is a rare and difficult thing to write. The reader must quickly gain an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of magic and technology in the world the writer is taking them to, or else the mystery does not work as a mystery. Thus, if teleportation is possible, then locked rooms aren’t a challenge. This necessitates meticulous and detailed world-building, and I’m not entirely sure that has been achieved in this novel. There are no maps, and locations seems sprinkled about with little apparent regard to geography. But what really bugged me was the casual mention of an alchemist using a Bunsen burner… Does the author have any idea of the technology and infrastructure needed for Bunsen burners to work? He lost this reader right there.

That said, there is much to commend here. The book is well-enough written, and the plot (in both senses of the word) thickens enough to be interesting. Children are disappearing, their care-givers turning up dead in grisly fashion, their hearts turned “black and hard like glass”. Is this the work of the Frost Wolf, a monster thought to be mythical? And then there’s the King’s missing gold shipment. And a collection of disputed swords. It is all more-or-less connected of course, and the novel comes to an entertaining climax appropriate to both genres, the villains of the piece getting their just desserts. However, I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed. This was the book that won the SJV for best novel. But I think it could have been much improved with more work in the underpinnings.

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The official playscript of the original West End production of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play received its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two (Special Rehearsal Edition): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

Jack Thorne and based on an original new story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling, and John Tiffany

Little & Brown

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

First things first. It is indeed a brand-new Harry Potter story, but it is a play and not a novel. I hadn’t actually read a play for years, and I have to admit that I found the format a bit jarring at first. It also wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling, although the underlying story is hers. These factors combine to make the resulting book much more tightly written than any of the later novels in the Harry Potter series, and in my opinion that’s an improvement. I’ve been saying for a while that the first Harry Potter books, written before J.K. got too big for her editor, were considerably better than the later ones.

The story is set primarily in the present day, with the central characters being Harry’s second son, Albus Potter; and Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. The boys are talked into stealing a time-turner and returning into the past to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Predictably, when meddling with time, it all goes horribly wrong. And it has to be fixed… with a clever little twist.

There are definitely shades of Back to the Future here, with perhaps a dose of Dr Who. It doesn’t add much that is new to the wizarding world, except for fleshing out the characters of some of the offspring of characters in the earlier novels. Scorpius Malfoy, in particular, turns out to be a strong character and a surprisingly likeable person.

If you don’t like time travel books, you won’t like this one, and I’d definitely not recommend it to someone who was not familiar with the other stories; especially Goblet of Fire. But if you are a Potter fan, you’ll certainly want to read it, and most probably you’ll enjoy it. I did, and I confess I’m curious about the play. It must be truly spectacular.

Magic isn’t real, right?

Within the small coastal city of Dunedin, local translator, Tamsin Fairchild has a reputation she hates. People think she’s psychic…

Always hovering around and interfering in Tamsin’s life, part father-figure, part thorn in her side, Detective Jackson, is an old-school cop. Childhood friend to her deceased mother, Tamsin wonders could her mother have let an outsider in on the truth?

Newcomer, rookie cop Scott Gale is forced to team-up with Tamsin when they investigate the disappearance of a newborn baby and a bizarre crime scene—satanic ritual or hoax?

More and more the blame starts to point towards Tamsin…

Tamsin must uncover who’s framing her, find the baby before it’s too late, unravel the mystery behind her elder brother’s disappearance, and stop Scott from entering a world not meant for human eyes.

But Scott has family secrets of his own and Tamsin doesn’t know who to trust.

But can you trust Tamsin? What if the person who saved your life is about to frame you for murder?

The Kingfisher’s Debt

 Kura Carpenter

IFWG Australia

Review first published by SpecFicNZ

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Of course Dunedin is the home of Fair Folk and Elementals in the middle of a never ending feud. Where else could they hide in plain sight among the lesser humans? Of course they are casting spells and causing trouble. Like any other notorious crim’ on the East Coast they have a reputation to uphold. Of course they expect the worst but hope for the best. With power comes responsibility.

Debut novel The Kingfisher’s Debt by Kura Carpenter, is an escape into the life of Tamsin Kingfisher as she helps to untangle a culture crossing crime while dealing with the issue of solstice messing up her magic. Woven throughout the novel is the heartache of her own Romeo and Juliet love story as well as her search for her missing beloved older brother. Tamsin adds nuance to the meaning of a busy working woman fulfilling family responsibility, hiding family secrets and getting the job done. With clever reimagining of witches as gang members, magic as the drug for sale, and poetic touches of what lives look like on the line between good and evil, Kura brings us a touch of ‘if only’ in Aotearoa. I can’t wait to read what happens next.

An enchanting tale of magic, friendship and adventure for readers aged 9 and up – from bestselling author, Holly Webb.

Colette lives with her mother, making beautiful dresses for the rich women of Venice. She’s never known her father, and her mother won’t speak of him – but Colette’s embroidery moves and dances, and she’s sure that there’s magic in her blood . . .

And then Colette discovers the truth: her father is a famous maskmaker and a powerful magician. But when he’s ordered to create a mask that will bend others to its will, the magic becomes too strong for him to resist. Can Colette, with the help of a talking alley cat called Max, save him?

The Magical Venice books are all share the same beautiful setting, but can be read as standalone stories. The series includes: The Water Horse, The Mermaid’s Sister, The Maskmasker’s Daughter, and The Girl of Glass.

The Maskmaker’s Daughter: Magical Venice #3

Holly Webb

Published by Orchard

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Loved it! I needed something light and magical, and this fitted the bill, perfectly. I read it in a single day. But then, it is a short novel, intended for young readers.

The setting is a magical version of renaissance Venice, a Venice that never was, rather less sordid than the reality as suits a younger readership. There are distinct advantages to a pseudo-historical setting 7for your fantasy. People generally know a bit about the background, and you don’t have to come up with a map. But you do have to think about how much magic you want to infuse into your setting, and what impact that will have on the culture of the place. Venice is in many ways a good choice; a maritime city, trading in many directions, and geographically unique. I’m not entirely sure that Holly Webb has entirely thought out the historical implications of all that magic…

The story was complete in itself, although it forms part of a series sharing that setting, together with some peripheral characters. The central character is a girl named Colette, who lives with her seamstress mother. From the outset, it is evident that her mother is ill and before long she dies. Leaving Colette in a difficult and vulnerable position. Should she go with the Countess whom she does not trust? Or to the orphanage? Just as she is preparing to run away, the father she thought was dead appears to take her away to his mask-makers workshop. And there is magic… Colette can sew magic into in the very fabric. Magic that she has inherited from her father. And there are cats…

I enjoyed this immensely, and I’m sure many young girls from intermediate school age up would love it too. As would many older ladies (and gentlemen) who count themselves as still young inside. Now I shall have go find the rest of the series. Oh, and the cover is not only a lovely work of art, it fits the story perfectly.

On an ordinary morning in her village, Talia Ridgetree has no idea the adventure she is going to be captured on and taken for, nor does she have any inkling to the looming mystery of her past. With the cast of a powerful spell from the evil forces of the Blood Wizard, Talia must embark on a journey with an assorted cast of companions, from the village she calls home, to an elven forest. In the company of a pompous wizard, a strong woodsman, an herbal master, and a royal elven wizard, Talia finds herself in strange lands among strange magic.

As the stonebearer of the Talisman of Hope, Talia must find her inner strength and courage to tolerate the magic and mysticism around her. Questions assail her of who she calls family, who she can trust, and what she can ultimately believe. In the face of pending war and tragedy, Talia struggles to be true to her heart and soul as she treks to faraway lands in search of answers, all the meanwhile fending off the wickedness of the Blood Wizard, battling unimaginable beasts, overcoming biases, and freeing captured creatures.

The Stonemason’s Curse: Talisman of Hope Book One

Janet Bradley

Published by Austin Macauley Publishers

Supplied by Austin Macauley

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I did try. I got about half-way through this work before I simply gave up. I found myself looking wistfully at the to-be-read pile, and then at this book with distaste… altogether too often. So, the challenge for me as a reviewer is to figure out just what was so very wrong with it. And it seems to me that there are four main issues.

First, world design. This is a very Tolkien-esque high fantasy, with elves, little people, and so on. But where was the map? There has to be a map. It also felt very derivative. Changing a few race names isn’t enough to create an original and vibrant world. That said, there were some interestingly dangerous monsters… the Stonemason and the poisonous Sillatour in particular.

Second, the plot, such as it was. It was very linear, essentially a chase sequence. But all the locations seemed oddly close together. I really would have liked to have seen a map – it’s a staple of the genre, for good reason. It also felt odd that the principle MacGuffin, the talisman, was introduced as simply sitting on a shelf in the wizard Brymble’s house, among a row of orbs (who knows what happened to the rest of them).

Third, there are the characters, especially the elven prince Ivus. I don’t mind a bit of romance in my fantasy, but this character is an arrogant lecher chasing every skirt he sees, including one of the party members… and he’s meant to be a good guy! Many of the party were undeveloped, and lacking in personality. Even Talia, the lead character, seems more of a petulant teen than anything else. Oh, and more female characters in the party would have helped the dynamic work a whole lot better.

Fourth, there’s the actual writing. I can forgive a lot if a book reads well, but this didn’t. On a very basic level there were the missing commas, the poor punctuation of speech, and even the occasional spelling mistake. More importantly the choice of words was often stilted, and it lacked the rhythm and flow that characterises good prose.

There is quite possibly a decent fantasy tale buried in this novel somewhere, but it’s struggling to get out. A good solid rewrite, losing about half the verbiage would help; as would a hard editing to find and fix all the errors. I can’t really recommend the work, but you never know, it might be just me.

The incredible story of Lyra Belacqua will begin in La Belle Sauvage – the first volume of The Book of Dust. Now you have the opportunity to revisit her adventures in Northern Lights, with this graphic novel adaptation of a masterpiece, which comes to life with incredible full-colour art. Follow Lyra’s story once again in a way you’ve never experienced it before, as the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle – a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armoured bears. Lyra hurtles toward danger in the cold far North, never suspecting the shocking truth, that she alone is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle. This edition combines all three illustrated volumes of the story, now available for the very first time in hardback.

Northern Lights – The Graphic Novel

Philip Pullman

adapted by Stéphane Melchior, art by Clément Oubrerie, translated by Anne Eaton

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

The publication of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as a graphic novel was inevitable. The book had been published in several languages as well as being made into a film. Surprisingly, the graphic novel was initially French and required retranslation back into English. For those who are wondering why retranslate and not just slip Pullman’s dialogue into the speech bubbles – don’t go there. It’s the arcane worlds of publishing and translation.

To answer the obvious questions, it sticks to the story and to story order. The original 450 pages have been reduced to 280. Considering “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this isn’t a reduction in length and points to the eloquent sparsity of Pullman’s work. It had been quite a while since I read Northern Lights (or watched The Golden Compass), that re-reading the graphic novel wasn’t a chore.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a graphic novel is the artwork, and Clément Oubrerie has done an excellent job. The style is suggestive of drawings by early teens, as opposed to the hyperclean comics of DC and Marvel. The colours are subdued, like those of a Northern Europe autumn. Mercifully, he has eschewed the bright ink of Asterix and Lucky Luke for dull pencil. Melchior has kept the dialogue balloons small and ownership obvious.

While the original version of this story was the text novel, this graphic novel was as satisfying. Plus it is encouraging me to try the French version. Definitely worthwhile.

The publication of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as a graphic novel was inevitable. The book had been published in several languages as well as being made into a film. Surprisingly, the graphic novel was initially French and required retranslation back into English. For those who are wondering why retranslate and not just slip Pullman’s dialogue into the speech bubbles – don’t go there. It’s the arcane worlds of publishing and translation.

To answer the obvious questions, it sticks to the story and to story order. The original 450 pages have been reduced to 280. Considering “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this isn’t a reduction in length and points to the eloquent sparsity of Pullman’s work. It had been quite a while since I read Northern Lights (or watched The Golden Compass), that re-reading the graphic novel wasn’t a chore.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a graphic novel is the artwork, and Clément Oubrerie has done an excellent job. The style is suggestive of drawings by early teens, as opposed to the hyperclean comics of DC and Marvel. The colours are subdued, like those of a Northern Europe autumn. Mercifully, he has eschewed the bright ink of Asterix and Lucky Luke for dull pencil. Melchior has kept the dialogue balloons small and ownership obvious.

While the original version of this story was the text novel, this graphic novel was as satisfying. Plus it is encouraging me to try the French version. Definitely worthwhile.

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

David Fickling Books

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Hands up those who wanted a Lyra Belacqua origin story? Philip Pullman has returned to the world of His Dark Materials and delivered one. But apart from being a vehicle for dragging the other characters in, Lyra doesn’t do much sleep, soil herself and feed, mostly because she’s a baby.

Malcolm Polstead, the son of Oxford inn owners, is drawn into a conspiracy because he’s observant; Malcolm’s trick is he notices detail. He’s not a big cog in the conspiracy, but he becomes an important one due to circumstance. This plays out large at the end of the novel. But that’s getting ahead and may even be a spoiler.

The action mostly takes place in the small confines of Malcolm’s world: his parents pub, his school, the priory over the river where Lyra is sequestered. For most of the story, the point of view is Malcolm’s. Occasionally it switches to Dr Hannah Relf, an Oxford academic and member of the liberal conspiracy, Oakley Street. Like Malcolm, she’s a minor cog, but she works with the alethiometer, often on Oakley street business. The world has taken a conservative turn, and the Church is pushing hard against its enemies. Naturally, Lyra’s parents make their separate entrances and in much the way they are initially presented in Northern Lights, Lord Asriel as a benign presence and Mrs Coulter as malign.

This book is the first of Pullman’s new trilogy, The Book of Dust. Pullman’s style is suited to the young adult or older child. The language is about that of the average 10-12-year-old, but I was surprised to see one expletive, even though it was in character. I liked the characters -immensely, especially Malcolm and his sparring partner Alice. Whether they both feature in the sequel can only be guessed. The main villain was very threatening, and making his daemon a hyena heightened his menace. The only thing I found a little unreal was the flood inundating the Thames’ valley.

I enjoyed this book and want to get hold of the sequel the moment the proof copies are produced.