Hello everybody! Today, I’m finally getting round to posting my latest batch of reviews, which are all fantasies, this time, and I had so much fun reading all of these and escaping to the various incredible worlds within them instead of staying in the hellscape that was my March. Anyway, onto the post!
Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom by Dominique Valente and illustrated by Sarah Warburton
In the 3rd book of the Starfell series, it’s up to Willow and the new friends she meets when she’s finally allowed to go to school (even though the timing of the decision seems suspicious) to track down a missing elvish kingdom in order to save the magical community from losing their powers. The stakes are higher than ever and I didn’t want to put this down, but I loved that it still maintained the gentle, comforting vibe of the first two books at the same time. Willow is such a sweetheart, and I love that she’s becoming a little bit more confident in her powers, and Oswin is just the best animal companion ever, I can’t tell you how much he makes me laugh! The new additions of Twist, her aunts and Peg was brilliant, and Twist especially brought me a lot of joy while I was reading this! It was lovely to see some other familiar faces throughout as well, and to meet some other new background characters whilst learning more about the gorgeous, vibrant world Dominique has created. Based on the ending, I really hope this isn’t the last time I get to go on a journey with Willow, because I really don’t want to leave her the way she was at the end of this (I’m deliberately trying to be vague here so I don’t spoil the ending!)
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B Alston
I had extremely high hopes going into this after hearing rave reviews from some people I really trust, and somehow this still managed to exceed every single one of them. It’s the story of Amari, whose older brother has seemingly vanished into thin air, and what happens when she is invited to try out to become a junior agent for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, and gets the chance to investigate what happened to Quinton. Amari is one of the best fantasy heroines I’ve ever read (I’m talking top 5 here, and I’ve read a LOT of fantasy throughout my life); she’s clever and funny and brave, and I loved her determination to find out what happened to Quinton, and how much she cared for her family and friends generally. She’s an absolute badass and I can’t wait to get to know her better as the series continues and she learns more about her supernatural ability, which is both really rare and somewhat taboo in this world, but also very, very cool. I also loved lots of the supporting cast (or loved to hate them!) but two particular standouts out were Elsie and Agent Fiona, and I also really want to learn more about Jayden as the series goes on. As you might have gathered from my raving about everything else, the worldbuilding was also just sublime; kind of like a cross between Artemis Fowl and Nevermoor, but also it’s own thing entirely. Also, there’s a twist at the end of this that shocked me more than pretty much any twist I’ve ever read, and I’m still reeling several weeks after finishing it. An incredible, utterly original debut, which already feels like a classic, and has the potential to spawn not only sequels beyond the trilogy, but a film franchise and infinite spinoff series focusing on different facets of the fascinating world B.B Alston has created.
The Great Brain Robbery by P.G Bell and illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino
I really enjoyed the first installment of this back in 2018, so I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me this long to pick up this sequel, but I’m really glad I have now. It picks up a few months after the Train to Impossible Places, and continues the story of Suzy, a science obsessed girl who is whisked away on an adventure to the Impossible Places, where she is involved with the staff of the train that deliver the unusual and often magical post of its residents. This installment sees her trying to stop the destruction of Trollville, which has been experiencing earthquakes, and I loved all the twists and turns the story took. This is such a fun, imaginative world, and it was lovely to see Suzy and her friends on the Postal Express again, and I loved the part the villain from the first book plays in this new adventure too. I also loved the new villain(s) that this book focuses on, and the illustration where we first get to see one of them is probably my favourite in the whole book. The plot zips along at a great pace, and I was chuckling to myself while reading, so I definitely hope to pick up the 3rd (and sadly final!) book much quicker than I did this one.
The House at the Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes
The start of this book sets up the story with an intriguing letter that the protagonist has written after the adventure within, and I really liked that as it gave such a flavour for the story, and set things up in a really interesting way. This tells the story of Nine, an orphan pickpocket who discovers a magical house with some very strange inhabitants who desperately need her help to save them from a witch’s curse. Nine was a great heroine, and it was so nice seeing her become more trusting of people and less guarded as the book went on. I also loved her love of books and knowledge and the way she used this to help her new magical friends, who include a wizard, a spoon and a troll housekeeper. I think my favourite character had to be the witch though, even though she didn’t appear properly until close to the end of the story. She was so much fun and I loved the absolute pettiness of her curse and the reason behind it. The way I kept describing this when I read it was like Oliver Twist, but much more magical and whimsical, and I think I stand by that now I’ve written my review as well, although it’s definitely a lot cheerier and funnier as well.
The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant and illustrated by Paola Escobar
I’ve been excited for this for ages, so I was thrilled to discover that I absolutely loved it. It’s about a world where there are “Maker” families, who make magical clothes that can influence moods and actions, and as the title suggests this primarily focuses on the Hatmakers, specifically the family’s youngest member Cordelia. Someone seems to be trying to stir up the ancient rivalry between the families, which could lead to war, and she sets out to find out what’s going on, while also trying to cling onto hope that her father (who is missing at sea) will one day return home. I really loved the magic in this, and learning all about the Maker families and their history and traditions. The plot allows this information to be revealed very gradually, and I really loved the reveal of who was behind everything because I didn’t manage to guess it all! Cordelia was a lovely main character, but I think her friend Sam was possibly my favourite in the book, and I really loved Goose and Cook as well for the part they play! My very favourite thing, though, was undoubtedly the gorgeous writing style. I can’t quite put my finger on what it reminded me of, but it just fitted this story perfectly and made it such and enchanting, exciting book to devour. I seriously can’t wait for the next book after the mysterious ending, and this is such a lovely, cosy read that I really implore you to pick up if you love fantasy that feels a bit like a warm hug.
A Vanishing of Griffins by S.A Patrick
This is the sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, A Darkness of Dragons, which kept me very entertained when I was having a pretty rubbish time recovering from a major surgery, and I’ve been dying for the sequel to be out since I turned the last page. This series takes place in a world inspired by the tale of the Pied Piper, which S.A Patrick has invented an incredible magic system around, and added in so many other threads to explore in this world, in which the Piper of Hamelyn is a very dangerous villain who basically wants to control the whole world. Our heroes are Patch (a Piper, who is not evil), Wren (a girl cursed to take the form of a rat), and Barver (a dracogriff), and I love all three dearly. Wren’s story in here was a rollercoaster to say the least, and Barver discovering more about both sides of his heritage was super lovely. Patch’s storyline has lots of aspects too, but I think my favourite was the exploration of how the events of book one/what happened as a result, changed his relationship with Erner. My very favourite character is still Alia Corrigan, who travels with them and is a kind of mentor figure, though, because she is just an absolute queen- she’s so capable and cool and knows how to do so many incredible things. I also love that this is quite a political fantasy, especially as it’s middle grade, but still packs in loads of adventure and thrills that make it utterly gripping and kind of unputdownable at the same time. I was not expecting a certain moment in the climax at all, and I’m not embarrassed to admit I very definitely cried during/after it, and I’m incredibly worried about the dangerous situations we left some of the characters in. This was worth every second of the 2 year+ long wait, and I am already pretty much counting the days till I get to read book 3, even though I don’t even know when it’s out yet. I fear very much that the ending is going to destroy me though!
Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron
I’ve not seen very much hype for this on UK blogs, but I found it while browsing online and KNEW I had to read it because I love learning about the mythology of different cultures and pick up basically everything with Percy Jackson vibes. When I actually got to this though, I was so thrilled to discover that alongside the Percy Jackson similarities is a story that stands completely on it’s own and is just an absolute joy to read. This focuses on a girl called Maya who learns that her dad is an orisha, specifically the guardian of the veil that separates our world from the Dark, and her journey to find him when he is captured by the Lord of Shadows. The Dark, to be frank, sounds beyond terrifying and I never, ever want to visit! I also loved learning about West African mythology and the orishas, who were fantastic characters, and I also loved the godlings in Maya’s community, as well as her and friends discovering their own powers. Maya is so witty and fun as a main character, not to mention ingenious in how she tackles some of the situations they find themselves in in the Dark. but I loved the moments where she was more vulnerable too, and her friends Frankie and Eli were such a great support to her. Also, this is a bit of a random thing to mention, but I was obsessed with the chapter titles, they made me laugh nearly every time! I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series when it’s out in November, because the ending has set it up to be amazing!
Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell
I knew very little about this book when I bought it, but it got added to my TBR because I adore the Crooked Sixpence and although this is very different to the world of the Uncommoners, I really enjoyed it too. It sees three children from the 21st century transported into a virtual reality game in the 25th century, in which they have to complete adventures in realms inspired by different world history figures. The main trio of Arthur, Ren and Cecily worked really well and I loved their unlikely friendship forming as the book continued, plus the historical heroes were such an eclectic, interesting mix of supporting characters. I feel like I learnt so much about so many different incredible people, some of whom I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of before. I loved the world and the mythology behind it too; it’s kind of like a very futuristic version of Wreck it Ralph, and if this game existed in our world I would absolutely want to play it (albeit a less dangerous version because I’m a wuss and also can barely walk in a straight line without falling over). Also, I’m beyond obsessed with Cloud and I want them in my life immediately, please! Overall, a really great read with a brilliant balance between an exciting plot and educational information.
Featherlight by Peter Bunzl (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is admittedly less of a fantasy than I had expected it to be, but it’s still going in this post because there is a fantasy/fabulism element to it, plus I really enjoyed it and want to write about it! It’s the story of Derryn, who is the Lighthouse keepers’ daughter, and what happens when she is left on the island alone due to a medical emergency and the oil in the lamp burns out during a storm. It’s partially based on the story of Grace Darling, who I think is just absolutely incredible (Northumbria is one of my fave places in the whole world and I am always awestruck at her museum), and I love that this adds a magical twist to that already amazing story. Derryn is so lovely and I really felt for her, I very much enjoyed her Grandma’s appearance (there’s a certain line that made me snort with laughter!) and Tan, who I can’t tell you much about without giving spoilers, was just incredible. This packed so much into so little pages, and was just a really enjoyable, bite size treat of a book!
Have you read any of these? Which fantasy books have you enjoyed most lately? I’d love to hear in the comments!