Breathtaking Fantasy Adventures for Middle Grade and Young Adults

It’s not often I get the opportunity to delve into the depths of fantasy-adventure novels, so the change has been an interesting welcome. If you’re a thrill-seeker, a supernatural-hunting-wannabe, a mission-impossible-style adrenalin junkie or courageous-fugitive aspirant, then these following books are for you!

Fenn Halflin and the Seaborn by Francesca Armour-Chelu, July 2017.

Following its predecessor, Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero, this final futuristic fantasy takes the resourceful and brave Fenn Halflin to new depths of heroism. With fantastic, fast-paced action, Fenn and his loyal mongoose Tikki are at the forefront of saving themselves and the Seaborn people from the grips of the merciless Terra Firma and their evil leader, Chilstone. Haunted by his past and his pain, Chilstone literally drowns in his own hatred in response to the inner strength of our protagonist, Fenn. Uncomplicated but enough visualisation to get lost in, the dystopian Fenn Halflin and the Seaborn will sweep its middle grade readers into a spunky science fiction odyssey.

The City of Secret Rivers by Jacob Sager Weinstein, June 2017.

Twelve-year-old Hyacinth gains a lot more than she bargained for when moving from America to London; the place of her ancestry. Drawing on a wonderful mix of real life and an underground magical alternate reality, author Jacob Sager Weinstein literally sweeps us through a series upon romping series of adventure into tunnels, pipes and mazes in the secret sewer systems of London. When something as simple as washing her hands sets off a complicated chain of dangerous events, Hyacinth is thrust into a world of outlandish characters, including muddy Saltpetre Men, toshers and a bather-wearing pig, facing tests of trust, bravery and the acceptance of a whole new identity. All this to save her kidnapped Mom, oh, and the entire city from the Great Fire – plot by the conniving Lady Roslyn. With elements of suspense, humour, excitement and pure terror, The City of Secret Rivers combines the kind of complexity and ingenuity to that of Lewis Carroll and J.K. Rowling all rolled into a fantastical adventure for mid to upper primary-aged children.

William Wenton and the Luridium Thief by Bobbie Peers, April 2017.

First in this exciting new series is William Wenton; an extraordinarily talented codebreaker which lands him in all sorts of strife. Kidnapped by the Institute for Post-Human Research for his code-cracking skills, what follows is a series of mystery, adventure and secret discoveries. Wenton not only discovers the powerful substance, luridium whilst held captive, but also forges a path of self-discovery and identity, as most youngsters do on their journey into adulthood. With cryptic puzzles and fiendish mechanical inventions, the Luridium Thief is a captivating and enigmatic fantasy novel that will immediately hook those upper-primary readers.

The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward, August 2017.

More secrets, spies and being hunted. Another thrilling steampunk story for older readers, The Traitor and the Thief is essentially about fourteen-year-old petty thief Sin, on his own mission of soul-searching, relationship-building, and becoming a saviour. Caught and recruited into the Covert Operations Group (COG), Sin is trained to be an agile spy with mastery in weaponry and technology in order to uncover truths and conquer dangerous adventures. With quirkiness and elements of imaginative realities, as well as a touch of budding young romance and navigating teenagehood, this fantasy novel suits those readers out for a good mystery mixed with adventure.

Alex Rider: Never Say Die (Book 11) by Anthony Horowitz, June 2017.

From the bestselling series here is a new mission for Alex Rider, a fifteen-year-old adopted into a writerly family, and recruited by the M16 agents. Intensely terrifying adventure leads to clues as to the whereabouts of his female guardian, Jack – ultimately held for ransom by a terrorist organisation. Set in Cairo, and packed with plot twists and turns, Never Say Die is an exciting and absolutely gripping explosion of action and adrenalin that will have its readers on tender hooks until the end.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, including authors Cassandra Clare, Sarah Ress Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, May 2017.

To fully immerse oneself in this latest volume of the ‘Shadowhunters’ series, background knowledge and loyalty to best-selling YA author, Cassandra Clare would be ideal. In essence of the Harry Potter-style ideology of mixing realms between the normal and the magical variety, these tales confront protecting the ‘mundane’ world from the dangers of the supernatural beings. With ten short stories written by four authors and varying in complexity, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy fans will, I’m sure, relish learning of every new skill, memory and life discovery of its central character, human / vampire / Shadowhunter Simon Lewis.

Walker Books Australia

Review: Vicious by VE Schwab

9781783290215In light of VE Schawb recently announcing on twitter that Vicious is getting a sequel (!!), I decided I needed to review this book here. ASAP. Because it is glorious. It’s about super villains! It’s dark and scary and evil and full of anti-heroes with complex backstories and warped thinking to justify their evil intentions. Also there’s chocolate milk. This book has everything.

The story follows Victor and Eli, two college dudes who are proving a theory about superpowers. As a mostly YA reader, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t like this adult book. But, pfft, I shouldn’t have been. The writing is golden. It’s like a teeny tiny step away from YA, since it features college age-characters half the time. There’s also a 12-year-old girl who shares some of the narrating.

Can we talk about the villainousness?! I read so many books that claim to be about “villains”. BAH. They always couch evil in holy intentions. In Vicious, it explores EVERYTHING. Like what it means to be the bad guy. It explores the DARK side. Basically, Eli and Victor are two french fries short of a happy meal. They are twisted. They didn’t always start that way, though, and I love how the book is about them “before” they turned dark and “after”.

QUICK LIST OF THE CHARACTERS:

  • Victor: He’s the protagonist of the story. Ahhh! How do I even describe him? He’s very calm and confident and has a sharky smile and will risk everything and yet has a soft spot for lost people. He kind of picks up strays, which is entirely adorable. But at the same time, he’ll kill a guy point blank and not even blink. SO YEAH THERE’S THAT.
  • Eli: Okay, he is just a screw loose. Even before their experiments started going crazy, Victor always described him as having a monster under his skin that sometimes peeked out. Eli’s also a religious nut. (Why are the religious ones always crazy?!) So Eli wants to kill everyone with superpowers because he believes he’s ordained by God to do so. Victor probably wouldn’t have cared less, except that he and Eli are enemies and he’s gotta be on the opposite side of Eli…just because.
  • Mitch: I loved Mitch! He’s like this huge hulk of a guy that works with Victor…and he looks like he’d smash your brain in his fist, but he’s actually a computer genius. He also loves chocolate milk.
  • Sydney: She’s adorable! She’s the 12 year old and her character development is insanely fantastic.
  • Serena: She’s Sydney’s older sister. And while Sydney ends up with Victor, Serena ends up with Eli….and Serena is a bad nut. She controls people with her voice. Which is kind of a scary power…But when Eli wanted to kill Sydney and Serena went along with it? I HAD NO RESPECT FOR SERENA.

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Basically it’s like Charles Xavier and Magneto’s from X-Men’s origin story. But mix that in with The Prestige movie, where there are two guys doing mostly bad things and how-do-you-root-for-either…but then one guy has a soft spot for kids, and the other guy isn’t meaning to be so evil and — UGH — so many emotions! VE Schawb is a master of crafting words.

It’s told in the present and past. I didn’t find this confusing at all, in fact, I loved it! One minute we’d be in the college, watching Eli and Victor spiral into their evil intentions. The next, we’d be in the future, with Sydney and Victor trying to stop the mad Eli from killing all the ExtraOrdinaries.

I also found it really addictive. Time escaped me! When I finished I felt like dashing to the library and getting every Schawb book I can find because — WOW, JUST WOW. It’s incredible and perfect and totally my kind of story. It’s violent and vicious (duh) and I can’t wait for the promised sequel.

PURCHASE HERE

Anne Rice and The Vampire Chronicles

I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, and her novel Interview With The Vampire is one of my favourite books of all time. Published in 1976, Interview With The Vampire stands the test of time, even surviving a film adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas. The book was the first in what would become The Vampire Chronicles, a series of now 12 books, with the latest, Prince Lestat just released.

With this new release, the first in more than 10 years, I thought it was a good time to take a retrospective look at the series and hopefully inspire a few of you to pick up a book by Anne Rice, if you haven’t done so before.Interview With The Vampire book cover Anne Rice

The Vampire Chronicles series of books in order of year published:

Book 1. Interview With The Vampire (1976)
Interview With The Vampire is where it all started, so, what’s it about? The vampire of the title is Louis, and he tells his life story (all 200 immortal years worth) to a young reporter. Made into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt for a companion in 1791, Louis’ life takes on many unexpected twists and turns across the decades and themes of love, companionship, loneliness, betrayal, suffering, revenge, horror, value of human life and immortality are all present.

Louis finds that he is tired of being immortal but at the end of the interview, the reporter asks to be made into a vampire, obviously having learned nothing from Louis’ personal story and infuriating Louis beyond belief.

Book 2. The Vampire Lestat (1985)
As the title suggests, the second novel in the series is the story of Lestat de Lioncourt, as he narrates his own life story. He was given the Dark Gift by Magnus. He later meets Armand (see Book 6) who tells Lestat he was made into a vampire by a very old vampire called Marius. Lestat becomes fixated on finding Marius to ask him questions about the history and origins of their kind. He does get answers (no spoilers here) and by the 1980s (time of publishing) Lestat is living life as a rockstar vampire.

Book 3. The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Following on from The Vampire Lestat is The Queen of the Damned, the third in the series (also made into a film). Akasha is the mother of all vampires and the Queen of the Damned and has been ‘woken up’ by Lestat after sleeping for 6,000 years. The reporter, Louis and Lestat are back and find that Akasha has her own agenda. We learn how the mother and father of vampires were created, and Akasha threatens to destroy all vampires.

Book 4. The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
Lestat is depressed and lonely and takes great risks which almost cost him his immortal life. The body thief of the title is Raglan James who offers to switch bodies with Lestat. Lestat’s relationship with David Talbot (Head of the Talamasca Caste) is explored and he eventually reunites with Louis.

Book 5. Memnoch the Devil (1995)
In one of my favourite novels in the series, Memnoch the Devil, Lestat is approached by the Devil (calling himself Memnoch) and is offered a job of sorts.

Memnoch ‘takes Lestat on a whirlwind tour of Heaven and Hell and retells of the entirety of history from his own point of view in an effort to convince Lestat to join him as God’s adversary. In his journey, Memnoch claims he is not evil, but merely working for God by ushering lost souls into Heaven.’ (Source: WikipediaMemnoch the Devil ‘reinterprets biblical stories to create a complete history of Earth, Heaven and Hell that fit neatly with the history of vampires given in The Queen of the Damned.’ (Source: Wikipedia)

This is a book to make you re-think everything you know, consider life after death and our purpose on the planet and is one of my favourite books by Anne Rice.

Book 6. The Vampire Armand (1998)
In Book 6, we learn more about Armand’s back story, first featured in Interview With The Vampire. Telling his life story to vampire David Talbot, we learn Armand was born 500 years ago and was living and painting in a monastery before being kidnapped by slave traders and later purchased by the vampire Marius. There’s a lot of sex and sexual references in this novel, and when Armand is given the Dark Gift there is a repeat of the theme only to feed on evildoers and the struggle between good and evil.

Book 7. Merrick (2000)
Merrick Mayfair (of the title) is a witch, and features in the Mayfair Witches series also by Anne Rice. Louis, Lestat and David Talbot are back in Book 7 and the novel contains the backstory of Merrick’s relationship with David as well as her yearning for the Dark Gift.

Book 8. Blood and Gold (2001)
Another of my favourite novels of all time by Anne Rice, is Book 8 in The Vampire Chronicles, Blood and Gold. The reason I love it so much is the amount of art and history that is featured. Essentially, it’s the story of Marius.

Book 9. Blackwood Farm (2002)
Book 9 is unusual in that it introduces an entirely new character in Quinn Blackwood, a young boy haunted by a nasty spirit he calls Goblin. Quinn seeks help from Lestat who then contacts Merrick when he can’t rid the boy of the spirit.

Book 10. Blood Canticle (2003)
Quinn is back in Book 10, Blood Canticle, a story narrated by Lestat. Quinn is in love with Mona, a Mayfair Witch and Lestat has a love interest of his own. Mona is dying and Lestat turns her into a vampire to save her.Prince Lestat book cover Anne Rice

Book 11. Prince Lestat (2014)
Fans have been waiting more than a decade, but all the key characters are back in the newly released Prince Lestat, the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles. Apparently the vampire world is in crisis and their only hope of survival is our beloved Prince Lestat. (I can’t wait to read it).

Book 12. Blood Paradise (expected in 2015)
Said to be a sequel to Prince Lestat.

I hope this summary has given you a reading pathway into this series, and I’d love to hear from readers already in love with Anne Rice’s Lestat and other characters. It’s not hard to believe that in November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and I’m sure that number will continue to increase with new books 11 and 12.

Enjoy!