Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

The Double Shadow – Sally Gardner

Posted in Proofs, YA Fiction on August 31st, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

The Double Shadow is Sally Gardner’s latest novel, targeted at older teens and one of the first releases from Orion’s new young adult imprint, Indigo.  I’ve read and loved most of Sally’s previous books including the excellent I, Coriander and The Silver Blade as well as her wonderful books for younger children which are reread frequently in our household.   This new novel is a new venture for Sally as it is aimed at an older age group and is, in the author’s own words, ” a family sci-fi saga”.

Our story begins in 1937 with Amaryllis Ruben, an impetuous, spoilt, almost 17 yr old, being expelled from yet another school.  Her father, widowed millionaire Arnold Ruben, hopes to atone for past errors and neglect by bestowing on his only child the “memory machine” which should erase all painful memories and preserve himself and Amaryllis in an alternate world safe from the impending war.  However this gift ends up  being more of a poisoned chalice and there are nefarious plots afoot to use the device for evil ends.

Sally Gardner has a wondrous almost wizardly way with words, using simple prose infused with touch of magic.  Her characters are so vividly present, you can appreciate her talent as an illustrator complementing her skills as a storyteller.  The result is a very special novel which sounds like it’s very much set in the 1930s yet remains accessible to modern readers.  It’s a story about relationships, between father and daughter, mother and son, man and wife.  It’s about love in all its shapes and forms.  It’s also about memories and how they can both comfort and haunt us, having a life of their own as a double shadow of our own reality.

If you want a novel which eschews current trends in YA literature, no zombies, nor vampires nor post-apocalyptic plains, then you will relish The Double Shadow, a compelling read which will hook you from the opening pages.  If you haven’t already read any of Sally’s other books, I would highly recommend I, Coriander The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade  .

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The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Posted in Literary Fiction, Proofs on August 20th, 2011 by admin – 9 Comments

The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers.  It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

So our story begins – the circus just appearing out of the ether as did my advance review copy of this debut novel, much to my delight.  The UK edition looks stunning with black edged paper and end papers illustrated with a pattern of bowlers and top hats.   This is a feast for the eyes which is perhaps not surprising as the author is an artist but will the inside match the luxurious facade?

This is an odd review for me as, amid all my oohing and ahhing, I was all too aware of how some of my bookish friends would absolutely hate this book and would be cringing from the opening pages.  So, best to get that elephant out of the room before I go any further!  If you don’t like magical realism, if you’re not a fan of meandering narratives, if you prefer action, if you don’t like novels written in the present tense, if you don’t like fantasy then there’s nothing for you here.  However, if, like me, you do like a bit of escapism, you like to slip into another world, if you enjoy visual stimulation, then step right up!

The story is perhaps the least important element of The Night Circus, that role being reserved for the circus itself but yes, there is an underlying narrative, the story of two gifted young illusionists, Celia and Marco, being pitted against each other in a lengthy battle the rules of which are vague. Le Cirque de Reves (the Circus of Dreams) is the battlefield and it soon attracts a faithful following of “reveurs” (dreamers) who follow its progress from town to town, continent to continent by means of a shadowy underground movement.  There is a secondary storyline involving Bailey, a country boy who becomes linked to the circus and will have a key role in future events.  There is a varied cast of weird and wonderful characters, including Celia’s villainous father, Hector, his rival, Alexander, the man in the great suit as well as the supporting cast who keep the circus going.  These are not characters you expect to empathise with, this is a show after all and they are there to entertain you just as the various tents house a myriad of visually stunning scenes, the Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, the Labyrinth etc.

Some have compared The Night Circus with Audrey Niffenegger and yes, I can see slight similarities given that both authors are visual artists.  Others mention Alice Hoffman and yes, I can see some elements in common but Erin Morgenstern has created a unique world with the Cirque de Reves and for those who are on the right wavelength she has provided a pathway to a singularly enchanting universe, one in which my inner child revelled.  Highly recommended for all “reveurs”/dreamers.

PS  here’s a link to a short YouTube trailer to tantalise you.

PPS I noticed that Jim Dale (of Carry On fame and narrator of Harry Potter audio books in the US) is narrating the audio book version.

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The Crowfield Demon – Pat Walsh

Posted in Children's Books, Historical Fiction on July 28th, 2011 by admin – 4 Comments

Having really enjoyed the first Crowfield book last year, I was eager to catch up with William and the rest of the inhabitants of Crowfield Abbey including Brother Walter, the endearing hob and the enigmatic fay Shadlock.

It is now March 1348 and a year has passed since the shenanigans involving the fallen angel in the woods and the subsequent battle between good and evil.  Surely, peace will now reign in this cloistered domain but alas, there is no rest for the wicked given the evil aura which seems to be settling over the church at Crowfield, tainting the inhabitants’ thoughts be they awake or asleep.

William, Brother Walter, Shadlock and Brother Snail join forces to track down the source of this malevolence and hopefully conquer it.  However they cannot do this without drawing on pagan powers such as alchemy – where will it all end?  As usual, the rest of the monks look down on William and don’t take his warnings seriously – yes, they will regret it!

Pat Walsh has succeeded in keeping up the pace of her first Crowfield novel, cranking up the tension and increasing the mystery of William’s family, leaving the reader chomping at the bit for the next instalment in this exciting medieval fantasy.  Highly recommended for ages 9-12 and “big kids” too!

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