Wednesday 29 February 2012

Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Not All Blood and Guts
review by Maryom

Solveig's father, Halfdan, has upped and offed, gone to follow his old comrade-in-arms, Harald Hardrada to Miklagard and join the Empress's guards there. Solveig is not pleased to be left behind with her stepmother and two irritating stepbrothers, and determines to follow him despite the long, arduous journey and many dangers on the way.

Vikings are well known as warriors and raiders but this story introduces their 'gentler' side as traders - buying and selling goods throughout the Baltic, up river to Novgorod and down the other side of the watershed to the Black Sea and Miklagard (modern Istanbul).
Solveig's epic adventure takes her along this route, on foot and by boat, with something new almost every step of the way. This world is brought wonderfully to life for the reader - it almost seems possible to be beside Solveig as the boat hurls down rapids or as she stands entranced by the sights and sounds of a bustling southern market.

Harald Hardrada was a real historical figure - I won't say more as I think his story will figure in any sequels - and the author has blended fact and fiction to create an exciting story backed with historical detail. As a young teen, inspired by Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas in The Vikings, I loved anything even remotely Viking related and read all Henry Treece's novels - this is a really good successor to them.
An excellent adventure proving that Vikings weren't all blood and guts - likely, I think, to appeal to both boys and girls.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Quercus 
Genre - teenage, historical fiction,

Buy Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas) from Amazon

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Fantasy Island
review by Maryom

As a small child, Jacob was fascinated by his grandfather's tales of the children's home where he was brought up on a remote Welsh island, of the weird and wonderful children he shared it with and of the hideous monsters hunting them down. As he grows older, Jacob dismisses them as mere stories until after his grandfather's gruesome death, he discovers a box of old photographs which show these strange children - and Jacob finds himself driven to investigate the place where all these things occurred and to lay the past hopefully to rest.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a book that may well appeal to lovers of the quirky and weird but didn't really grab me. I thought it started really well - with Jacob's dismissal of his grandfather's tales as make-believe and then his dawning realisation that there may have been some truth behind them. It was when the story moved to Wales that it tailed off a bit. I found my thoughts snagging and tripping over irrelevancies - the island and its inhabitants felt Scottish rather than Welsh, the age of the photographs didn't match the supposed date they were taken. The characters suffered in the same way - the American ones - Jacob and family, his best mate, even the staff at the shop - were better drawn than the 'peculiar children' or the other islanders.

Having said that, I read it under the misconception that it was adult fiction. I think as teen fantasy it probably works better.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher - Quirk Books

Genre - teen, fantasy

Monday 27 February 2012

May Contain Traces of Magic by Tom Holt

A comfy pair of slippers
Review by The Mole

Chris and Karen moved in together a number of years ago and their life is getting very routine. Chris sells magic items for JWW Retail and is stuck in a rut. His sat nav offers advice on how to break out of the rut but then he is given a trainee, Angela to take around with him. And then... well stuff happens. Demons try to kill him - or do they? And time goes wonkey. And he falls down a toilet or two. Well it's Tom Holt isn't it? And Tom Holt doesn't do this stuff without throwing in lots of humour.

I first 'met' Tom Holt when Karen, a nurse on Cardiac Care, asked me what I was reading - it was a Pratchett and so she suggested Tom Holt and brought in Ye Gods! I only had the book for a few hours before being moved to Cardiology but as soon as I was released into the care of the  community, I contacted Amazon and bought my own copy to finish it and since then I have read quite a few.

Before I started blogging about books I pretty well only read Pratchett/Holt/Robert Rankin books but since then I have read so many new authors of so many genres and I have enjoyed so many (I stand by every review I have done).

This book was a birthday present and has been sitting on the TBR pile for more than a year and as I awaited the postman I decided this one was next. Well, we all have shoes for different occasions; hiking, running, shopping dancing, gardening etc and when we have completed those activities and get home at the end of the day - worn out and happy with our feet, we slip our slippers on and our feet say 'Thanks,that was fun and those shoes were good but this is what life is all about - let's chill'. That is what picking this book up was like, a comfy pair of slippers at the end of the day.

Thoroughly enjoyed what I found to be the best Holt yet. And that's why I don't allocate star ratings to books any more, because when you've given the maximum then you can't give any more.

Fantastic fun read - EXCELLENT!

Publisher - Orbit Books
Genre - Adult Fiction, Humour, Fantasy

Buy May Contain Traces of Magic from Amazon

Friday 24 February 2012

World Book Day - 1st March 2012

It's soon to be World Book Day again! 

When our youngest was at primary school this was an exciting day with events about books focussed around it. Still, today, children are given a £1 book token and a range of £1 books is available at many retailers for them to pick from or they can use it as a discount on a more expensive book.

OK but why WORLD Book Day? It focuses on the classroom and the bookshops so why the word 'WORLD'.

There are others involved too that are taking this international for extremely good causes. What is a book? A book is an entertainment. It's a learning tool - if only learning to read. Learning to read paves the way for improvement in life and, potentially, a way out of poverty. So based on starting young, Book Aid International work at this time to "support literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa". And at this time schools can help them in their work by some fun fund raising ideas that they have on their website or maybe you can come up with ideas of your own. Have a read of their site, have a word with the school and see if we can't all help them in this work.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Edwin Spencer: Mission Improbable by J D Irwin

No ordinary science lesson
Review by The Mole

Edwin Spencer is an ordinary boy (and that makes a bit of a change before we start!) with three academically excelling sisters while he plods along, like boys do, doing the minimum at school. Then in a science lesson a vortex appears and a voice commands him to enter it. Edwin hasn't lost control of his mind and like all sensible people keeps well clear. But the vortex is out to get him and one day, while hiding in a cupboard, he gets dragged off to a strange adventure.

I made a mistake with this book and tried to out guess the author but it's not a book like that. The story twists and turns and the reader knows all the information as it's given and can try to guess who the bad guys are. It didn't help, I still got it wrong!

Well plotted, engaging and fast moving this story is bound delight the 9+ readers, both boys and girls. The story is shared with a heroine in the form of Perpetua, an academically excelling student in Edwin's form who also happens to be 'concerned' (nosey?) about Edwin and so gets caught in the vortex.

This story is bound to delight young readers and another adventure follows in Edwin Spencer: Shadow Magic.

Publisher - Catnip Publishing
Genre - Children's 8+ fantasy fiction

Buy Edwin Spencer Mission Improbable from Amazon

Tuesday 21 February 2012

This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

review by Maryom

This Is Not Forgiveness is the story of three intertwined lives
- there's Rob - invalided out of the army after a land mine explosion badly damaged his leg, now disillusioned and drifting, unable to pick up the pieces of his life,

- his younger brother Jamie - always picked on and even bullied by his older brother but still looking up to him,

- and Caro, the girl that attracts them both - trouble-filled, attention craving and searching for something to give meaning to her life. Jamie is falling deeper under her spell but love and a happy ending is not on her agenda. She's more interested in radical protests and political terrorism. Rob's discontent gives her an idea of the way to make the ultimate attention grabbing stunt.

This Is Not Forgiveness is a compelling, disturbing, brilliant read. I picked it up from the library one day - and had finished it by next morning!

It starts as a letter from Jamie to Rob, trying to work through his anger at his brother, then moves to personal accounts from Jamie, Rob and Caro. Telling the story from three different points of view gets the reader inside the heads of these emotionally scarred young people - all more vulnerable than they would let the world believe. I felt I could share their emotions - no matter how mixed up and confused - and sympathise with them.

It's one of those stories where I wanted to grab the characters and tell them to stop what they're doing because they're in out of their depth. From page one the reader is aware that something dreadful has happened but I wanted to step in and prevent it, the unravelling is so painful to watch.

It's a book that asks questions but doesn't preach. For those who want to investigate further, it raises interesting socio-political issues or you could just read it as a love story/race-against-time thriller.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury

Genre - YA
Buy This is Not Forgiveness from Amazon

Cold Kiss by John Rector

A Cold Thriller
Review by The Mole

Nate and Sara are broke and running away to get married  because Sara's parents don't approve. When a stranded motorist offers silly amounts of cash for a lift to Omaha then Sara persuades Nate to relent in his objections. A snow storm is brewing and they are losing the race against it. The scene is set....

OK, this kind of scene is well used by many authors but what John Rector brings to it is new and refreshing, in a bloodthirsty, psychopathic sort of way. The story is told from the 'I' that is Nate and we learn more about his history, his health and why he keeps having blinding headaches, as the story progresses. Although I found myself having sympathy with him and his story, I couldn't bring myself to like or trust him. Sara, his girlfriend, is more straightforward and understanding of Nate's problems and supportive but finds herself increasingly alienated by his behaviour. His behaviour? The Motel is, typically to such stories, populated by people whose behaviour is less than perfect. The tension builds and the reader is left knowing that someone is going to do something to someone but trying to guess who those someones are going to be.

There are times when you say to yourself 'that could not happen!'. In fact there are times when the characters acknowledge the fictional quality of the scene they are in and also say 'that could not happen!'. This doesn't change the fact that this was one of the books that I have had most difficulty putting down and been most anxious to pick up again.

John Rector's début novel is a must for thriller readers, I thoroughly recommend it!

Publisher - Simon and Schuster
Genre - Adult Thriller

Monday 20 February 2012

Noughties by Ben Masters

A University Drinking Challenge?
review by Maryom

Eliot Lamb and his friends are about to leave university. How well will the past 3 years at Oxford have fitted them for life in the 'real' world? For tonight no one cares - they're out for one last evening - drinking their way from pub, then on to the bar and lastly the club. As they wander, increasingly drunk, round town, Eliot reminisces about his time in Oxford and fends off increasingly urgent texts and missed calls from ex-girlfriend Lucy.

Eliot isn't the most likeable of characters and as the story is told by him I think this tainted my attitude towards it. Self-centred and shallow, he feels superior to just about everyone he meets - to his old school friends because he's gained a place at Oxford while they're off to 'common' universities; to the public schoolboys at Oxford because he had to earn his place. He seems to have stumbled blindly around for the past three years, blissfully unaware of the crises affecting his supposedly best friends.

I came away from this book thinking "well, I didn't enjoy that much" but in the week or so since then, as I've gone on and read other things, my opinion of it has gone up.

Not a book I'd recommend to any parents with children at, or about to start, university - you'd probably decide to keep them at home under a watchful eye!

Publisher - Penguin
Genre - Adult Fiction

Buy Noughties from Amazon

Friday 17 February 2012

Unclean Spirits by M L N Hanover

Normal Paranormal?
Review by The Mole

Jayné Heller has inherited her uncle's estate but what does that estate entail? Jayné has absolutely no idea but when the door explodes open and she is attacked by trained killers she didn't expect that to be part of her legacy! Not only has she inherited phenomenal strength she has also inherited phenomenal enemies.

ADMISSION... This is the first 'paranormal' book that I have read but from what I have heard this one is not from the normal mould. Yes the enemy are various forms of demons, vampires, werewolves and other rather nasty stuff, but the story puts them all on the side of the bad guys and the good guys are normal humans trying to rid the world of the bad guys. But the armoury of the good guys is not without magic of various types.

'Urban fantasy' the cover says and yes, I suppose it is but I feel that first and foremost it's an action adventure... a well written and well delivered action adventure at that. I loved nearly every character in this book - the good guys side I mean - with the exception of Midian. But I don't think we are supposed to like Midian. I hope.

I suppose it's one of the difficulties of putting every book into one of the recognised 'genre's - there will always be those that fit into several. First and foremost this book is about a 24+ year old. Her antics do stray to adult material - although there is no romance in this story at all!

A really great read as an action adventure that left me hungry for more stories of Jayné Heller's adventures. It's not a spoiler to say she survives this story as it's the first of a trilogy.

Publisher - Orbit Books
Genre - Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Action Adventure

Buy Unclean Spirits: Black Sun's Daughter: Book One from Amazon

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Goblin and the Girl by Neil Irani

The Power Of The Mirror
Review by The Mole

The Girl has a mirror which whenever she looks in it all she sees is a goblin. Frightened that other people will see the goblin too she hides her face behind a large hat and avoids people until one day when The Boy talks to her in a friendly way and she can't hide from him.

One thing that surprised me in this book is that "The Girl" and "The Boy" don't have names. It's something that I hadn't noticed until I re-read it and the more I think about it the more relevant this idea actually is.

While the pictures (by Park Yun) are powerful they also manage to catch the mood very well of The Girl as the story progresses.

My only concern is if a child on their own could catch the true understanding of the important subject that this book covers, so I feel that at some point it needs to be shared and talked about. Self-esteem. Perhaps one of the earliest character developments that can shape a person for many years. The book is written such that if it is shared with a child and discussed it can be used to show that 'the quiet child in the class' should be talked to and treated kindly even if not actually befriended by everyone or it can be used to show a shy child that they don't look like a goblin and are perfectly normal and that they can talk and play with other children.

A beautifully drawn and well scripted book for sharing and discussing.

Publisher - Maverick Books
Genre - Children's Early Reader

Buy The Goblin and the Girl from Amazon

Monday 13 February 2012

The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Finnish Epic

review by Maryom

The Brothers is the first offering in Peirene Press' Year of the Small Epic, the tale of Henrik and Erik - two brothers different in almost every way: one is courageous and adventurous, going off to see the world and make his fortune; the other is steadier, the type to stay at home and tend the family farm; one appears to have everything he could want; the other is thwarted at every turn. Through accident, the brothers found themselves on opposite sides as the Russians and Swedes fought over Finland, and as the story opens Henrik returns home for the first time after the ending of the war - the perfect dramatic set-up for an opening up of old wounds and long-held grudges on, yes, an epic scale!

The Brothers is another wonderful offering from Peirene Press - one which might top Portrait of The Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius as my favourite.
A "small epic" seems a curious oxymoronic thing but although The Brothers is short on pages it's certainly not short on plot or characterisation. In just over 120 pages Sahlberg brings to life a family drama of long simmering resentment, sexual tension, financial mismanagement and long hidden secrets. It's rather like watching an intensely focused, dramatically packed 90 minute film, instead of the slow progression of a 12 part TV series. I loved the depth of characterisation and scope of the action achieved in such a small space.
There's something reminiscent of Greek tragedy to the story in the inevitable working out of fate and also in the presentation - each character talks directly to the reader, revealing his/her thoughts, desires and secrets and the action is seen through their eyes. Yet the opening sequence has all the hallmarks of a Western - the crunch of footsteps as Henrik approaches, the measured step, his slow appraisal of his surroundings, for all the world like a gunslinger walking up the main street of a Wild West town. Once you start to think "western" a lot of other things fit in - the horse, the girl, the squabbles over land -perhaps it just underlines the timeless quality of the story.

Translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction, translated fiction, Finland

Friday 10 February 2012

Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft

A chilling read!
Review by The Mole

It's an unusually cold winter in Sweden and the people are in a state of apathy waiting for warmth to come when a body is found hanging in a tree. The body is naked and has been beaten and slashed beyond recognition and Malin, with her partner Zeke, are called to start the investigation. Without identification and no-one matching having been reported missing there won't be a quick solution.

This is the first Scandinavian crime thriller that I've read and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe 'enjoy' isn't quite the word I'm looking for but I would most certainly do it again.

The style was comfortable for me to read (being of the squeamish nature) for example the victim suffered some horrific injuries and it could have been described in a stomach churning fashion - but it wasn't, and where ever the opportunity arose to shock the impact was thoughtfully minimised. The purpose was to shock and horrify the characters but not the reader.

Malin has lots of life 'issues' but show me a fictional detective that lives a happy life. (OK.. they do in Midsomer but they're more fictional than fiction!) But we also get close to most every other character in the book.

The investigation develops slowly but that's not to say the story moves slowly - it doesn't and you start to wonder where the 420 pages went! With the entire detection process no secrets are held back from the reader and in fact as the victim actually has a voice from the grave throughout the book it's arguable that the reader knows more than the detectives. And in the end was justice served? Is justice ever served fairly? Maybe and maybe not and as with life not all the loose ends are tied off. Some are left for the reader to ask about, wish for or wonder at. But as with all good crime thrillers it's not guessing who did it that matters - it's the story of actually getting there.

A really good book and I look forward eagerly to Malin's next case - and maybe we'll find out what Karim's wife WAS thinking!

The version of the book I was reading was The Richard and Judy Book Club version that is exclusive to W H Smith and has bonus content including the first chapter of the next book as well as a Q&A with the author, Mons Kallentoft.

Publisher - Hodder
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Buy Midwinter Sacrifice from W H Smith

Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Book Of Summers by Emylia Hall

Long Hot Hungarian Summer
review by Maryom

One day Beth's father comes on a surprise visit, bringing with him a parcel sent to her from Hungary. She knows who it will be from - the handwriting on it is that of her estranged mother's Hungarian artist partner, Zoltan - and at first she determines not to open it.
For seven years after her parents' separation, Beth made the long journey to Hungary for a week long summer holiday at their home, Villa Serena. At the time these weeks seemed idyllic -in comparison to her dull, plodding life at home with her quiet, almost silent father, Beth found Hungary to be hot, exotic and vibrant - but after they came to an abrupt end Beth has tried to block all memory of them.
Curiosity wins over her original decision - and inside the parcel she discovers The Book Of Summers, a scrapbook with an exquisitely painted cloth cover, compiled by Beth's estranged mother, Marika, filled with photographs, postcards and pressed flowers celebrating the holidays Beth spent with her in Hungary. Beth finds herself drawn back into her life there, rediscovering the joyful summers and the traumatic ending to them.

In essence The Book Of Summers is a coming of age story, a journey of self-discovery while facing up to hidden, unpleasant truths, one in which the heroine cannot build a future without coming to terms with the past. But what makes it stand out from so many similar tales is the way in which it is told.
The Book Of Summers brought the sights and smells of the Hungarian countryside to life for me. It's one of those novels that can transport you to a different time and place - I read it last week in the biggest freeze so far this winter and would swear I could feel the heat of the Hungarian summer as I read. It's such a beautiful evocation of hot, lazy summer days, of meadows disappearing into heat haze, hidden forest pools and not forgetting the wonderful Hungarian food - goulash, spicy sausages, juicy water melons, bullet-holed cheese.

I wondered slightly as I was reading, entranced as I was, quite where the plot was leading - whether it was solely a series of enchanting snap-shots. Then without warning, wham, came a lightning bolt of a plot twist - one that stopped me in my tracks and made me reassess the story so far.

I was told that this was a book that I would adore - and I do!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Headline
Genre -
adult, literary fiction

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Snowy Favourites

With snow and ice lying around for the third day, we started thinking about our favourite snowy reads - so here's yet another Top 5 list

Maryom's Top 5

When I started thinking of snowy day stories, the first one that sprung to mind was the AA Milne one in which Pooh and Piglet go in search of a woozle - admittedly it's not a complete story, just a chapter from Winnie the Pooh but it's complete in itself and captures the essence and excitement of snow and of tracking something through it.
There are lots that didn't quite make the Top 5 - Cold Mountain and Possession both have memorable snow storms though the overall feel isn't 'snowy'; almost anything Russian is bound to include snow - Dr Zhivago, War and Peace, Eugene Onegin - and so many murder mysteries - The Murder on the Orient Express, The Virgin in the Ice, The Opposite of Amber .....

Anyway, these are the ones that made the final cut;

In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and nearly catch a Woozle - classic snowy weather hunting tale for the under-5s

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith - faceless dead bodies and fur smuggling introduce us to Arkady Renko of the Moscow militia.

Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg - Nordic Noir. The police claim a boy's death is an accident, Miss Smilla, with her indepth knowledge of snow, insists it's murder.

The Still Point by Amy Sackville - memories of a polar explorer unearthed by his great-grand niece on a hot summer's day, making the cold colder and the heat, hotter.

Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson - snow covered fir trees alternate with ripe strawberries against the background of teen love and a murder trial.

The Mole's Top 5

Well I don't see how any top 5 snowy stories can be completed (or even started) without including The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Magic, snow, friendship and love - all the components for an excellent story.

And when it comes to magic The Lion The Witch And The Wardobe by C S Lewis has captured so many imaginations since it was first published and is still capturing them today.

But snow is not all soft and fluffy whiteness as we see in Dark Matter by Michelle Paver when we see the darkest and most hostile side to winter.

And when people become dark in their intentions and join forces with winter we end up with stories like Dead Of Winter by P J Parrish. A truly chilling and thrilling tale.

But sometimes the darker side of people does not involve murder and mayhem as we see in Legend Of A Suicide by David Vann when winter conspires with mood to bring very dark times.

Your Top 5 snowy stories

Do tell please?

Monday 6 February 2012

The Comic Cafe by Roger Stevens

A Work of Art
Review by The Mole

By a strange and plausible turn of fate, Wilf and his 4 sisters are accidentally abandoned in the seaside cafe that their parents have bought. Sounds like a recipe for parties and fun but instead they decide to do the cafe up and open it up again. Sounds like an adventure but becomes much more when things don't go quite to plan.

Written with bags of humour and with all the characters having a their own contribution to the plot, this book must appeal equally to both boys and girls. Laughs come thick and fast from Wilf who is the only one that doesn't take life too seriously but is also the most focussed of them all. Sounds like a contradiction? Yes, I suppose it does but it works and gives a really entertaining, light hearted read for children of about 9+.

One comment that was made as I was reading it was that it would make a children's television series. Well it would but let's not overlook that it's a really good children's book first though.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Children's 9+, Comedy

Buy The Comic Cafe from Amazon

Friday 3 February 2012

Grolion of Almery by Matthew Hughes (Short Story)

The Strength Of An Anthology
Review by The Mole

Songs of the Dying Earth (Pt 2)

This anthology is a celebration of Jack Vance's first novel "The Dying Earth" and as such each is set on the same world with the same magics and customs but with entirely different imaginations telling the stories. Writers such as Robert Silverberg, Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman contributed their tellings in honour of the creator of the Dying Earth.

This, the second story from the anthology, is a complete mood change from the first and is none the worse for it.

Grolion is being pursued and is offered shelter after knocking on a door at random. But Grolion doesn't appear to be who and what he says he is. But The Resident doesn't appear to be either. And who's the narrator of this tale? Both humorous and adventurous this story will entertain on the train and set your mind jumping for a day or two in the spirit of all good short stories. And it's nice to turn the page and start the next story wondering what the mood will be.

The stories in this anthology are well worth a read. They won't all be to everyone's taste but there will be something there for most people.

Publisher - Voyager
Genre -
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Short Story

Buy Songs of the Dying Earth from Amazon

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

End of the World - Again!
review by Maryom

Maddy Smith has always known that she is different to the other folk in her village - the rune mark that she was born with makes her so and gives her powers to deal with the magical world whose existence is denied by her neighbours. But just how different, she doesn't realise till the day Old One-Eye asks her to open the way under Red Horse Hill and go in search of the Whisperer, a relic of the Old Gods. Here she discovers adventures beyond her imaginings, journeying through the World Below to Hel on the borders of chaos.

I stumbled across Runemarks accidentally on the Serendipity Reviews blog - until then I'd associated Joanne Harris with adult fiction in warmer French settings (Chocolat being my favourite) so found the idea of a teenage fantasy novel very intriguing. I asked my library to order it and settled back to wait. Imagine my surprise and delight then when I was lucky enough to win a competition on the same blog offering not just Runemarks but also a signed copy of the sequel, Runelight!

Runemarks is a marvellous, magical adventure story, of double and triple cross, with so many twists and turns that at times it's hard to remember who is on whose side! Maddy is an engaging, feisty heroine, able to pluck up the courage to do what needs to be done - no matter how frightful or gruesome. But I must say my favourite character was Loki - charming and witty, cunning and devious, he always has an answer for everything, trying to shift the blame on to others and away from himself - a sort of Old Norse spin doctor! They're backed up by a sweeping cast of Gods, goblins, shape-shifters, parsons and pot-bellied pigs, and the sinister members of The Order who would like the world to be a duller, more ordered place without magic and with themselves in charge!

A word of caution to anyone who's a little claustrophobic, as I am - it contains the most frightening and realistic fictional tunnels since Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Harris captures the cramped (terrifying) underground feel so well that, in the early parts of the story as Maddy ventures through the tunnels of the World Below, I found myself having to break off and come up for air!

A book for anyone who enjoyed the Sabriel series by Garth Nix, although lighter and funnier.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Random House Children's Books
Genre -
Teenage Fantasy Adventure

Buy Runemarks from Amazon