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BOOK REVIEW: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Wednesday, February 15, 2017



BLURB:


Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.


Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...


Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone..


MY THOUGHTS:


The final book in Juliet Marillier’s latest magical historical trilogy, Den of Wolves wraps up the story of Blackthorn and Grim beautifully. It draws together the familiar narrative strands of Blackthorn’s quest for justice and her fear of drawing too close to anyone with the situation of a young woman who does not seem to fit into her world. Blackthorn is a wise woman who has suffered terribly in the past, and Grim is her huge but gentle sidekick who worships the ground she walks on. Their story began with Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns, which you must read first, and, as always with Juliet Marillier, is a wonderful mix of history, romance, and fairy-tale-like enchantment. I’ve really loved this series, and am sad that there will not be any more stories about the damaged healer and her taciturn giant of a companion. I’m only comforted by the knowledge that Juliet Marillier is working on a new project. I can only hope we are not kept waiting too long!



BOOK REVIEW: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Tuesday, November 29, 2016



BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. 


She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. 


Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind . . .


Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.



MY THOUGHTS

Maggie Stiefvater made her name with a series of teen werewolf romances that were a cut above the usual, with acutely realised characters and luminous prose. Lament is similarly a book about a teenage girl falling in love with someone not of her world, though in this book the romantic hero is an assassin sent from the faerie world to kill her. It’s a clever premise, and once again Stiefvater’s teenage characters feel real and alive. 

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of The Forest by Juliet Marillier

Saturday, November 26, 2016



BLURB:

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. 

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...


MY THOUGHTS:

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is one of my all-time favourite books, that I like to re-read every few years. A retelling of the ‘Six Swans’ fairy-tale, set in ancient Ireland, it is a beautiful story of courage, love, peril and wonder set in a world where magic is only ever a hairsbreadth away from us all. 


BOOK REVIEW: THE SWORD IN THE STONE by T.H. White

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I had to re-read this book after reading Helen Macdonald’s extraordinary memoir H is for Hawk, which revealed much I did not know about T.H. White and his life and sorrows and struggles. 

A classic of children’s fantasy, The Sword in the Stone is a funny and inventive story of King Arthur’s childhood. It was first published in 1938, but it feels incredibly fresh. Much of the book is made up of a series of set pieces in which Arthur (known as the Wart) is changed into different animals like a fish, a falcon, and a badger, and meets various comic or menacing characters, such as Robin Hood (cleverly disguised as Robin Wood). The underlying idea is that the Wart is being secretly prepared to be king by his tutor, Merlyn. The book abounds in comic anachronisms (ostensibly because Merlyn lives backwards), but it is also filled with acutely observed historical details about medieval times. No attempt has been made to simplify the language, and so one of its joys is the multitude of strange words and terms, which I remember delighting in as a child. 

A wonderful, strange and memorable fantasy, perfect for any clever child.

THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST: Eight-year-old readers tell me what they think

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Never be too shy to write to an author you love - I promise you, it will make their day!

I just received the loveliest mail from a teacher in New Zealand who read my children's fantasy series THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST to her students - I will treasure their notes to me forever. 
Here they are:


Dear Kate 


I am the teacher of a year 3-4 class in a small rural school, just outside Hamilton, in New Zealand. 


I picked up a copy of Book 1, The Impossible Quest - Escape from Wolfhaven Castle at a literacy conference in 2013. I returned to school and immediately read it to my class. The children were totally engaged and enthralled with the story, so much so I actually stopped reading one day as they were so still and silent (this doesn’t often happen!) 



The following year I read books 1-3 to my class and they were hanging out to read book 4 & 5. This year I was lucky to have the same group of children (small school!) and so we have read book 4 & 5. 


I had purchased book 5 online and so displayed this on the screen for the children to read along with me. What an experience that was for both myself and the children. We were all hanging out to get to the end of book 5 and what an ending. It was very satisfying! 

Many of the children have independently read the book again. We had several hypothesis regarding the sleeping heroes, who Jack might be and of course the realisation that Quinn was in fact a queen. The whole way through the series we were kept guessing, just like the children in the novels. The children have written some comments about the novels that they wanted to share with you. They were also wondering if there was any chance that this might be made into a movie. These children are all 8 years old. 




What I liked most about your books are that they’re all rescue missions which I think is the awesome part. That’s what I think is extraordinary about your books – Prue 


Your books are awesome. It was great in the Battle of the Heroes, when the Mortlakes were captured in the cages - Chase 


I liked your books because they have really good words and the action is very exciting. Kloey 8 years 


I really like Quinn. I also liked the very last sentence in Book 5… They all laughed knowing that none of them believed anything was impossible any more. Lacy 



Your books are interesting. I like your titles of the books. Drayden 


I love your Impossible Quest series. They are so unique and extraordinary. I’ve read the whole series myself! I especially like Book 5. It’s got so much drama. I love all of the fantasy animals. When I grow up I want to be an awesome author like you. Ashlee 


What I liked about your story is how you made people fight and I also liked Fergus. Khaled 


I like most about the Impossible Quest is the adventures in the book. I liked Fergus. Brad 



I liked the characters and the weapons in your books. Luke 


I like your books because they are very good and they excited me when I when I read the first one. Phoenix 


I really liked how you wrote book 5 because it really excited me with all the scary parts. Phoebe. 



I really liked the adventures that the children had. Saige 


What I liked most about your Impossible Quest book 5 was that I thought it was very extraordinary. My favourite characters were Quinn, Wolfric and Beltain. Your books blow my mind. Jessica. 


I like the Impossible Quest books because there are adventures in each book. My favourite characters are Quinn and Quickthorn. The first book was absolutely astonishing. They had to escape Wolfhaven castle. Book 3 was epic because they found Beltain the dragon. Thank you for making the Impossible Quest series. Alexa 


I liked Impossible Quest 5 because of the heroes. The heroes are extraordinary and Quinn, Eleanor, Tom and Sebastian and the other characters are all awesome. Micaiah 


I liked the adventures the children had and their animals. My favourite one was the unicorn, Quickthorn, Wolfric and Fergus. Cassie 



Once again, thanks for writing such an appealing, engaging and enthralling series of books that are appropriate for our younger readers. 
Kindest Regards 


Leanne Adam Class 
Teacher Rukuhia School, Hamilton, New Zealand


BOOK REVIEW: THE CURSE OF THE THIRTEENTH FEY by Jane Yolen

Monday, March 28, 2016



THE BLURB: 

A reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from a master storyteller. 

Gorse is the thirteenth and youngest in a family of fairies tied to the evil king's land and made to do his bidding.

Because of an oath made to the king's great-great-ever-so-many-times-great-grandfather, if they try to leave or disobey the royals, they will burst into a thousand stars.

When accident-prone Gorse falls ill just as the family is bid to bless the new princess, a fairytale starts to unfold. Sick as she is, Gorse races to the castle with the last piece of magic the family has left--a piece of the Thread of Life.

But that is when accident, mayhem, and magic combine to drive Gorse's story into the unthinkable, threatening the baby, the kingdom, and all.

With her trademark depth, grace, and humor, Jane Yolen tells readers the "true" story of the fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

Jane Yolen is a wonderful writer of fantasy and historical fiction for young adults, and has a particular interest in fairy tales that has long drawn me to her work.

The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey is a reworking of the Sleeping Beauty tale, told from the point of view of the thirteenth fey (the one that cast the curse of death on the princess).

It's written with a great deal of humour and charm, and all ends happily (even though the princess and her family are really not very nice people). 

BOOK REVIEW: WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans

Wednesday, March 02, 2016



THE BLURB:

For fans of Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series comes a gripping and passionate new historical novel. Intrigue, ancient secrets, fairy tales, and the glorious scenery of the Scottish borders drive the story of a woman who must find out who she really is.


Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. 

First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time—a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. 

And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK: 

WILD WOOD is a dual timeline narrative that moves between the Scottish Borderlands in the 14th century and an unhappy young woman in the 1980s who finds herself compelled to draw the same Scottish castle over and over again.

I love stories with parallel timelines, particularly with a good dash of romance, history and magic added in, and I love books set in Scotland, so all the ingredients were in place for a really wonderful read.

I must admit I loved the scenes set in the past more – the story of the mute fairy wife, the battle-hardened warrior and the medieval castle were all so intriguing.

The contemporary scenes did not work quite so well for me, perhaps because the 1980s is not a decade that really inspires me. 

However, the story of Jesse and her eerie connection with the past eventually drew me in, and the story really began to gallop along.

I LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS:

REVIEW: THE FOLK KEEPER by Franny Billingsley

Monday, December 21, 2015


Whenever anyone recommends a book to me that I haven’t read, I write it in the back of my diary and then I hunt the book down. The Folk Keeper was recommended to me by an artist friend, who shares my fascination with selkies and other magical creatures of the sea.




THE BLURB

She is never cold, she always knows exactly what time it is, and her hair grows two inches while she sleeps. Fifteen-year-old Corinna Stonewall--the only Folk Keeper in the city of Rhysbridge--sits hour after hour with the Folk in the dark, chilly cellar, "drawing off their anger as a lightning rod draws off lightning." The Folk are the fierce, wet-mouthed, cave-dwelling gremlins who sour milk, rot cabbage, and make farm animals sick. Still, they are no match for the steely, hard-hearted, vengeful orphan Corinna who prides herself in her job of feeding, distracting, and otherwise pacifying these furious, ravenous creatures. The Folk Keeper has power and independence, and that's the way she likes it.


One day, Corinna is summoned by Lord Merton to come to the vast seaside estate Cliffsend as Folk Keeper and family member--for she is the once-abandoned child he has been looking for. It is at Cliffsend that Corinna learns where her unusual powers come from, why she is drawn to the sea, and finally, what it means to be comfortable in her own skin. Written in the form of a journal, The Folk Keeper is a powerful story of a proud, ferociously self-reliant girl who breaks out of her dark, cold, narrow world into one of joy, understanding, and even the magic of romance.



WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK

 The Folk Keeper is one of those small, perfect books that seem so simple and yet are so hard to create. The first line reads: ‘It is a day of yellow fog, and the Folk are hungry.’ It tells the story of a boy who works as a Folk Keeper in an orphanage, keeping the magical Folk appeased so they will not do harm to the human world. One day a Great Lady arrives, and so the boy’s life is changed forever. He discovers many secrets about himself and his past, uncovers a long-hidden murder and faces death himself, and – in the end – falls in love. Franny Billingsley won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction with this beautiful children’s fantasy and it is easy to see why. An utterly unforgettable read. 

I LOVE TO GET YOUR FEEDBACK - WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS BOOK?

BOOK REVIEW: Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Friday, December 04, 2015

My son – like so many others his age – sat his HSC last month, and so I spent lots of time waiting for him outside exam halls and libraries. This meant lots of lovely reading for me! 

THE BLURB:
 

On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt,” will inherit her family’s treasure: the Newington Emerald. A dazzling heart-shaped gem, the Emerald also bestows its wearer with magical powers.


When the Emerald disappears one stormy night, Newt sets off to recover it. Her plan entails dressing up as a man, mustache included, as no well-bred young lady should be seen out and about on her own. While in disguise, Newt encounters the handsome but shrewd Major Harnett, who volunteers to help find the missing Emerald under the assumption that she is a man. Once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure that includes an evil sorceress, Newt realizes that something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.


In Newt’s Emerald, the bestselling author of Sabriel, Garth Nix, takes a waggish approach to the forever popular Regency romance and presents a charmed world where everyone has something to hide.
Release Date: 13th October 2015


WHAT I THOUGHT:

Garth Nix is one of my favourite Young Adult fantasy writers, and Regency romances are one of my favourite genres to read – put the two together and you get the wonderful, light-hearted, and utterly magical Newt’s Emerald.  

Set in a world very much like Georgette Heyer’s Regency (a place that is in itself a fantasy), the book mixes together a stolen emerald with secret powers, a young lady who disguises herself as a man, a young nobleman who is really a spy, an evil enchantress, and a host of comic minor characters, plus an ill-fated ball in Brighton. I raced through it with great eagerness, and am now hoping that Garth plans to write many, many more. An utter delight!

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR IF YOU ENJOYED THIS AS MUCH AS I DID:


Creating Secondary Worlds

Saturday, June 06, 2015

This week has been all about the World of Eileanan, as I celebrated my 18th year anniversary of the publication of my first book, re-launhced with bold new covers:




One of the great pleasures of writing a fantasy novel is creating the secondary world in which your story will inhabit. 



In the contemporary fiction genre, the writer knows the religious, political, historical, and cultural background of the society already 

A fantasy writer must construct the society from the very foundations.

E.M. Forster wrote in ‘Aspects Of the Novel’, that ‘What does fantasy ask of us? It asks us to pay something extra. It compels ask to make an adjustment that is different to an adjustment require by a work of art, to an additional adjustment. The other novelists say, “here is something that might occur in your lives”, the fantasist  “Here is something that could not occur.” 


The extra coin that E.M. Forster says must be paid by the reader of a work of fantasy is the suspension of disbelief. 

By agreeing to put aside our inherent scepticism, we are opening the doors of our imagination and inviting in beauty, terror, strangeness, the marvellous and the miraculous. We are allowing ourselves to wonder whether the world may not be a different place to what we believe it to be. This can be an uncomfortable experience, no doubt, but also a liberating one.

The extra coin that a writer of fantasy must pay is the painful stretching of their own imaginations and knowledge. A good writer of fantasy is one which constructs their impossible world with great care. 

They must know the spiritual beliefs of their people, and the tension which inevitably arise between those who believe differently. 

They must know the history, the language, the culture, the landscape, the flora and fauna – and it is not enough to call a rat a “sleghg”, or some other unpronounceable made-up name! 

Nor is it enough just to give your characters a sword and a cloak and a horse and a dragon to fight, and think that your work is done. Especially if your hero says ‘OK’ and ‘See ya later.’


Readers of fantasy are usually avid readers with excellent educations. When you have read a thousand fantasy books, the ones you remember are the ones which enter into your dreams and inhabit your waking life, ones which seem more real than your own life, ones which give you a language to express your own inexpressible fears and desires. 
In order to create this vividness, this intensity of feeling in the reader, a writer must spend the time getting to know their created world as well, if not better, than the world in which we all live. 

How they would speak, what clothes do they wear, have they discovered how to magnetise lodestones yet, and do they knew the recipe for gunpowder?


Is the world you are creating set on our planet in the past, or is it set on our planet as it may have been if things had happened differently, or is it on a different planet altogether? 

Who holds the power in your created world? Who desires to?

What is the primary source of money? 

What do people eat for breakfast?

What kind of underwear do they wear?

What do people say when they hammer their thumb instead of the nail? 

What god do they call to in their despair?

The sorts of questions you can ask yourself when constructing a fantasy world are endless, and endlessly fascinating. Much of it may not find its way into the narrative, for after all, you are not writing a traveller’s guidebook, but a story. 

It is the story which will compel your reader’s interest. Yet if you do not do the ground-work, you will not be able to understand what forces drive your characters, and it is your characters that make the story come alive. 


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