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BOOK REVIEW: A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Blurb (From Goodreads):

From the author of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy comes the story of a friendship between two girls set in Victorian England, with magical machines, wizards, witches, a mysterious underworld, and a race against time.

Annabel Grey is primed for a proper life as a young lady in Victorian England. But when her mother suddenly disappears, she’s put in the care of two eccentric aunts who thrust her into a decidedly un-ladylike life, full of potions and flying broomsticks and wizards who eat nothing but crackers. Magic, indeed! Who ever heard of such a thing?

Before Annabel can assess the most ladylike way to respond to her current predicament, she is swept up in an urgent quest. Annabel is pitted against another young witch, Kitty, to rescue the sacred Moreover Wand from the dangerous underworld that exists beneath London. The two girls outsmart trolls, find passage through a wall of faerie bones, and narrowly escape a dragon, but it doesn’t take long for Annabel to see that the most dangerous part of her journey is her decision to trust this wild, magical girl.

Sparkling with Karen Foxlee’s enchanting writing, this is a bewitching tale of one important wand and two most magical girls.

My Thoughts:


I’m a big fan of Karen Foxlee and always buy her books as soon as they come on my radar. A Most Magical Girl is a delightful, whimsical tale of a very ordinary girl named Annabel Grey who is sent to stay with two eccentric old aunts when her mother disappears. To her dismay, Annabel realises her aunts are witches and that she is the heir to their magic. Meanwhile, a wicked man named Angel is sucking out the power of sad things – such as flowers stolen from a new grave or the bonnets of long-dead babies – to feed his Dark-Magic Extracting Machine. He plans to take over the world and only Annabel can stop him. She needs help, however, which as always comes from the most unlikely people …

An enchanting story, told with simple lyrical writing, and just enough wild magic to keep it fresh and surprising, A Most Magical Girl is just the kind of book I would have loved when I was eleven.




Want more Karen Foxlee? Here is my interview with her from 2014.

Please leave a comment, I love to hear your thoughts! 

BOOK REVIEW: Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman

Sunday, April 09, 2017

BLURB:

The old ones will have their revenge.

Two peoples have been fighting over the same land for a thousand years. Invaders crushed the original inhabitants, and ancient powers have reluctantly given way to newer magics. But Ember was to change all this with a wedding to bind these warring people together - until her future goes up in flames.

Ember's husband-to-be is murdered by a vengeful elemental god, who sees peace as a breach of faith. Set on retribution, she enlists the help of Ash, son of a seer. Together they will pit themselves against elementals of fire and ice in a last attempt to end the conflicts that have scarred their past. They must look to the present, as old furies are waking to violence and are eager to reclaim their people.

MY THOUGHTS:

Pamela Freeman is the author of a brilliant fantasy trilogy called ‘The Castings,’ comprised of Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle, which I really loved.

Ember and Ash is a stand-alone novel set in the same universe but a generation after the events of the trilogy. It begins with the wedding night of the heroine, Ember. Her husband is killed within moments of them taking their vows, by a vengeful elemental god. The tragedy re-opens old wounds and destabilises the fragile peace of the land. Ember sets out on a quest to defeat the god and save her people, accompanied by one of her kin, Ash, the son of a seer. Their journey will test them to their limits, and help remake their world forever.

It was wonderful to return to the world of ‘The Castings’, where every new-born child is named for the first thing the mother sees after the baby is born. One of the things I love about Pamela’s writing is the way the stories of minor characters are given unexpected weight, so that everyone’s lives have meaning. She is also courageous enough to give us an unexpected ending which nonetheless rings true with the world she has created. 

BOOK REVIEW: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Friday, April 07, 2017

BLURB:

Lirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, with Dead creatures to battle and Free Magic entities to bind. She’s also a Remembrancer, wielder of the Dark Mirror. Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic.

When Lirael finds Nicholas Sayre lying unconscious after being attacked by a hideous Free Magic creature, she uses her powers to save him. But Nicholas is deeply tainted with Free Magic. Fearing it will escape the Charter mark that seals it within his flesh and bones, Lirael seeks help for Nick at her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier.

But even as Lirael and Nick return to the Clayr, a young woman from the distant North braves the elements and many enemies in a desperate attempt to deliver a message to Lirael from her long-dead mother, Arielle. Ferin brings a dire warning about the Witch With No Face. But who is the Witch, and what is she planning?

Once more a great danger threatens the Old Kingdom, and it must be forestalled not only in the living world but also in the cold, remorseless river of Death.

MY THOUGHTS:

I have been a huge fan of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom fantasy series since the first book Sabriel was published in 1995. Any new book in the series is a cause of celebration (and not just in my house!) Goldenhand is the sixth in the series (counting the novella ‘Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case’ which was published in Garth’s collection of shorter pieces, ‘Across the Wall’). I think the series must be read in order, for maximum enjoyment. I do so again every few years.

Goldenhand focuses once more on the story of Lirael, who was once a shy Second Assistant Librarian but is now the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. Once again she and her friends must battle with evil powers to save the Old Kingdom ... and as always that means passing into the cold and relentless world of Death with nothing but a bandolier of bells to help her.

Always a joy to read, Garth’s writing is fluid, and full of moments of both beauty and brutality. Lirael is my favourite of his many wonderful characters (perhaps because she was shy and grew up with her nose in a book, just like me). I was also so glad to see another of my favourite characters return (but I’m not going to say who because it’s a spoiler.) All I can say is – if you love heroic fantasy and haven’t yet read the Old Kingdom books, start now. 


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