Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be reviewing some more books (look at me with a semi-regular review schedule for a change!), this time with the theme of them all featuring another world/alternate version of ours. Onto the post!
The Great Fairytale Cover-up by Angela Woolfe
This was recommended to me by a friend as something that would cheer me up while we were still in full lockdown, and it most definitely did just that! This book is so much fun, it’s about a girl called Roxy who discovers that the world she lives in isn’t anywhere near as boring as she once thought, and is in fact home to people who used to be fairytale characters but are now banned from using their magic, when she meets Cinderella Jones. I really liked both the main characters, and the supporting cast are just delightful. Some particular favourites were the fabulous fairy godmother Frankie, Roxy’s sister Gretel and the talking mirror she comes across on her adventure. There’s one particular scene with the mirror that had me in absolute stitches. The twists on classic fairytales and little references were brilliant as well; I’m most definitely planning to pick up the next one in the series once it’s out. Also, this is so random and not really related, but it made me so happy when I realised the author also writes as Emerald Everhart because I ADORED a series by her when I was younger!
Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuznair
This is the story of a girl called Aleja, who has always dreamed of a more adventurous life whilst living in Seville with her family, as she boards the Ship of Shadows and sets sail on a thrilling adventure with it’s all female crew. I loved Aleja, she’s such a great character and I particularly related to her love of language learning, as they’re something I’m very passionate about too. The ship’s crew are all amazing too, I especially loved Frances and Elizabeth, and the ship itself is sort of sentient which I really loved! The adventure is incredibly exciting too and I was definitely on the edge of my seat as I was reading. The gorgeous writing was another cherry on top, because it’s so rich and descriptive that I felt I was actually with Aleja watching everything unfold rather than reading a book. I can’t wait for Secrets of the Stars to come out so I can see what happens next!
Return to Roar by Jenny Mclachlan (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I really enjoyed the first one in this series last year, so I was really pleased when I ended up loving this even more! It sees twins Arthur and Rose journey back into Roar, the imaginary world they created as children, and face off once against their menacing enemy Crowky, who is searching for a dangerous weapon to use against them. My favourite thing in the series is definitely Roar itself, because it’s so imaginative and well built and I loved learning more about it and its inhabitants in this book. Speaking of its inhabitants, the characters are the other main thing that I think is amazing! Arthur and Rose are both brilliant in their own, very different ways, and I really liked seeing how their relationship has changed since the Land of Roar. Win is so adorable too, I love him, and Mitch was SUCH a great new addition too, I absolutely loved her!! Crowky deserves a mention too, because he’s seriously sinister, I never thought a scarecrow would be able to put me so on edge. I’m really looking forward to the third and final book next year to see how the Trout twins’ story concludes after such an exciting ending!
The Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby and illustrated by Rachael Dean
This Arabian Nights-inspired story is about a girl named Amira, who lives at sea with her sea witch mothers and cat jinn Namur, as Namur goes missing and she meets a boy who also has a jinn, which is the first time she’s ever met anyone who does. I absolutely loved the world/magic system in this; it was so original and I’ve never read anything quite like it before. The idea of having a jinn and them being linked to your emotions was so interesting, and I liked the way information is threaded throughout the book so that learning more about them is a gradual process. The mysterious narrator device was something else I really enjoyed, I found it so fun trying to work out who it was (even though my guess was way off!). Another thing I loved about this was Aisha’s writing, which is just gorgeous! This is quite different to her debut, but her vivid descriptions of Amira’s world make for an incredible reading experience, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel once it’s out next year and seeing where the story goes next.
Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang
I was so excited about this from the minute I heard about it, and it absolutely didn’t let me down! It’s about a group of children who go to a summer camp in China, and end up bonding with their very own dragons, who are in desperate need of their help to defeat the Dragon of Death. I absolutely loved all 4 main characters (Billy, Dylan, Charlotte and Ling-Fei), and their dragons (Spark, Tank, Buttons and Xing), but Dylan and Buttons were my definite favourites. The relationships between them all were so lovely too; I adored the friendship and teamwork in here. And I don’t want to say who they are for fear of giving spoilers, but the villains were genuinely quite scary, and I really liked the twist at the end too! I loved the cinematic feel of it as well; there were some of the scenes (such as the one where they bond with their dragons) I’d love to see in a film adaptation. I’m absolutely desperate to make another trip into the Dragon Realm after Dragon Legend is released in March, because the cliffhanger at the end was amazing!
Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James
In the third installment of the Pages and Co series, we see Tilly and Oskar journey to America in a bid to find the powerful bookwanderers the Archivists, who they are hoping will help them take back the British Underlibrary from the sinister Underwood siblings. 2 years on, I’m still just blown away by what a genius concept book wandering is, and I loved the way that this expands the world I already knew and adored. The introduction of the Sesquipedalian deserves a mention in particular, and I also loved that it brought the new characters of Milo (who is such a darling!) and Horatio (who is significantly less darling, but nonetheless incredibly enigmatic and intriguing). The Shakespearean characters we get to meet were so fun too, and having read one of the plays that characters feature from I felt like Anna had really captured them and they feel very much like the characters in the original work. This is by far and away my favourite book of the series; it was so magical and brilliantly paced and I loved the way it wrapped up Tilly’s arc. I can’t wait for the first in the sequel series, especially if I’m right about who the new main character is!
Jungledrop by Abi Elphinstone
In the second full-length Unmapped Kingdoms adventure, we see the wealthy Petty-Squabble twins Fox and Fibber journey into Jungledrop, the Unmapped Kingdom which is responsible for rain, to stop evil harpy Morg’s attempt to conquer the kingdom, and discover a lot more about themselves and how much they really care for each other, despite what their parents have made them believe, along the way. The kingdom of Jungledrop is definitely my favourite so far, despite how much I liked Crackledawn and Rumblestar, because it was just so incredibly magical! I especially loved the golden Panthers and the ghost train, and Heckle the parrot (who repeats your thoughts rather what you actually say) is a new favourite animal companion for sure. Something else I especially liked was the character development- both Fox and Fibber really grow and change for the better throughout their time there, and while I wasn’t sure about them in the slightest to begin with, I adored them both by the end. It was also great to have a cameo from some characters we’ve met previously in the series! I’m already so excited for the next one, though very sad it’s going to be the last.
The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson
In her 3rd novel, Sophie Anderson tells the story of a girl called Olia, who lives in an incredible magical castle with her family, until she is transported into a magical world that is slowly crumbling apart due to the rule of a powerful magician. Olia is a fantastic character, she’s so likeable and clever and capable, and I really enjoyed her journey. The supporting cast is also fabulous, in true Sophie Anderson fashion, with my favourites being Feliks, Katya and Olia’s grandmother. The world itself was really interesting, and I really enjoyed learning more about Slavic folklore as well. Something else I think Sophie always does really well is the atmosphere of her books- the plots are always very exciting, but there’s also this really lovely, gentle quality to them that makes them so wonderful to curl up with. Also, there’s a reference to another one of Sophie’s books at the end of this that made me cry because I was so pleased, so if you’ve also been a fan of hers for a while, it’s a huge highlight of this!
Monsters in the Mirror by AJ Hartley (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In the first of a trilogy, we’re introduced to Darwen, who discovers he has the ability to travel to other worlds via mirrors, when he stumbles into a mysterious shop shortly after moving to America. I have to admit I found this pretty slow paced, but once I got further in, I found the plot really interesting and there were some twists as to who is putting the magical worlds into danger that I really enjoyed as well. I also liked the friendship between Darwen, Alexandra and Rick- watching it develop throughout the book was lovely. Mr Peregrine, who owns the Mirror shop, was my favourite side character, but Darwen’s Aunt Honoria was brilliant as well. There’s so much left I still want to discover about this world, and I’m sure I’ll catch up with the rest of the series at some point.
The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty and illustrated by Karl James Mountford
This is the companion novel to one of my other favourite books of the year, the Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, and if you’ve read my review of that you’ll know I’m not speaking lightly when I say I think this may have been even better. It follows two rival groups of children (the orphans and the boarding school kids) from the town of Spindrift, who must team up when the Whispering Wars begin and their world is thrown into chaos, as the Whispering Kingdom is stealing children and launching attacks against them. The dual narrative between orphan Finlay and Honey Bee, whose uncle works at the boarding school, was really effective, and I was so, so attached to both of them by the end. I also loved their friends/schoolmates, who have such distinctive personalities, and the appearances of characters from Bronte Mettlestone brought me such joy (this takes place, if my maths is right, roughly 10 years before the beginning of that). The plot is so gripping too, and I loved learning more about the Whispering Wars as we only learn a little bit in Bronte’s story. The way everything ties together at the end is just masterful writing as well, it’s so cleverly done. I honestly can’t recommend these books highly enough; I really want more people to read them because they’re just incredible! I can’t wait for more Kingdoms and Empires adventures!
The Griffin Gate by Vashti Hardy (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
In her first Barrington Stoke novella, Vashti Hardy tells the story of Grace Griffin, whose family is responsible for the safety of the world in which they live as they are Guardians of the Griffin Map, which allows them to teleport to the scene of a crime or emergency of any kind in order to help. I thought this was such an interesting concept, and this packs in a lot of plot for roughly around 100 pages- it sees Grace take on her first solo call, even though she’s not meant to until she’s 15 and properly trained. She’s a great heroine and I really liked her, but I have to admit the family raven Watson was the real star of the show, for my money! The plot was really interesting as well, and because it’s so short it’d be great to pick up and finish in one sitting. I’m definitely planning to pick up the Puffin Portal once it’s out!
Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend
It had been over 2 years since the release of Wundersmith, the second book in the Nevermoor series, when I picked up the 3rd book Hollowpox, and every single second I spent waiting on it was more than worth it. This is just spectacular, and I don’t think I’ll be able to find the words to do it justice. It follows the wonderful series protagonist Morrigan as she continues training and navigates using her very unusual knack even further, amidst a deadly pandemic taking hold of the city of Nevermoor and putting many lives at risk. I found it really interesting seeing the parallels between our pandemic and this fictional version, particularly as I think this was mostly written before coronavirus became an issue. I also loved the character development, particularly of Morrigan, but also getting to see new sides to the amazing people who surround her. My particular favourites are still Fen and Jupiter, but I honestly love everyone, and it was great to have some new additions too (I especially liked Rook and Sophia). And I can’t possibly mention characters without pointing out that Ezra Squall is probably the best villain I’ve ever read- he’s genuinely scary, but also very multi-layered and three-dimensional, and I really hope to find out more of his backstory as the series progresses, as that was something I really enjoyed in Hollowpox. The plot is just fantastic as well; it’s gripping, perfectly paced and it expertly balances the magic and the joy of this world with the darker, scarier elements. Without a doubt, this is another Wunder-filled installment of one of my favourite series of all time that has left me simultaneously desperate for the 4th book and dying to go back and reread all the ones released to date.
Which fantasy books have you loved recently? Do you have any thoughts on the ones I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear in the comments!