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Aug 20

Feyland: The Twilight Kingdom

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

I found these books on Wattpad and read the first two titles in the series (and also a sort of prequel). Then I discovered there was a good price for all three books in print, and I got them, because generally, I like to own all my favorite books in print.

Just like the first books in the series, this one was great. Well written and fascinating. The characters felt real and they were likeable (though I do find it just a little bit annoying that Jennet is so perfect). As I’ve mentioned before I really like Marny a lot better.

The relatively dystopian future setting works well. I’m not usually a fan of the new dystopian subgenre. Just like the ‘new’ urban fantasy isn’t to my taste either. In this book, the setting works. It’s not a ‘total’ dystopy, just the sort of society we’re already seeing the first traces of, in slum areas and rural areas all over the world. There’s advanced technology, but also vast areas where people live in poverty in crumbling buildings with threatening criminal gangs taking over.

In this book, we get to see a bit more of other characters, but again, not nearly enough of Marny. I think she should have been more included in the plot and it would have been great if a love interest could have been found for her.

If you’ve read my reviews of the earlier books in the series, you already know about my feelings about this series, so I don’t have much more to add, other than that I can really recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy, but also those who like modern YA books. There may not be vampires, werewolves and zombies, but it feels ‘modern’ in the writing style and the description of characters and in this context, it’s all positive.

Apr 12

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Posted on Sunday, April 12, 2015 in Books, Children's books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

“When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late.”

This book was a little creepy, as the author herself puts it, but it never gets too scary for the age group it’s intended for (that I imagine might be about 9-12 and of course, all the rest of us who are young at heart). Despite all the weird details you learn about Triss, you find yourself being sympathetic to her. She is in a very frightening situation and as she uncovers more and more about the secret of what’s happened to her, things go from bad to worse. Fortunately, she manages to find a few (to begin with) reluctant allies along the way.

Frances Hardinge turns out to be quite a versatile author. She showed up just in time, for me to discover her books, when Diana Wynne Jones passed away. Not that I’ve stopped loving her books and will continue to read them, but sadly now there won’t be any more from her. Hardinge’s books remind me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones’ books. I’ve been quite surprised at how varied Hardinge’s stories are, especially when it comes to the setting. They’re all quite ‘serious’ and dark, but not too much so. Fortunately there’s always a happy ending, at least to some extent.

If I’m going to mention something that didn’t quite work out, it’s the fact that the atmosphere in the story didn’t ‘feel’ like the 1920’s – at first I couldn’t guess what time the story was set in – anytime before the 1970’s? I also have a bit of a question – did the newspapers really publish photos of missing people back then? It seems a bit too modern, but then I’m hardly an expert.

This book, that I initially thought might be a bit too dark to be a real favorite for me, actually turned out to be among my very favorites, among Hardinge’s books. In fact, I love them all, though I found the last book I read (Face of Glass) a little too bleak and depressing. As for Cuckoo Song, I can recommend it to anyone who likes low fantasy YA books. I rate it 4 out of 5.

Oct 23


Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

Abhorsen is the last book in the trilogy about Sabriel. There isn’t that much more to say about this book. It continues the struggle against the powers of evil. Sabriel’s son finds out his true calling. He was the Abhorsen-in-training but is that really right for him?

In this book Lirael returns and so does the Disreputable Dog. She does what she does best – being ‘Disreputable’. Even when there’s a price to pay, she finds a way of – circumventing it, or close enough.

You’ll meet more ‘living’ dead and what’s even more frightening – a human who’s been contaminated by the evil. He’s good, but something inside him isn’t and there isn’t much hope for him. It’s obvious from the start that his journey can only end in tragedy. Unless his friends, Lirael and Sabriel’s family, can do something to save him.

At the end of the book I’m still satisfied with the story and the characters, so I can recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy with a difference. In fact, this trilogy can be counted among my favorite fantasy reads ever.

Oct 23


Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

Lirael is a Clayr without The Sight. She can’t see into the future. The Clayr are a people of ‘Seers’ who live under a glacier far to the north. Basically near the North Pole, it seems. Lirael is an outsider among them. When she’s grown up, and still hasn’t had her ‘Sight’, she finds work in the great library.

The library is an enormous place, filled with locked rooms and chambers that aren’t safe to go into. It’s been created over generations and not every librarian even remembers every single room in it, or the safeguards placed on their doors.

Here is an example of how huge and dangerous the place is: when Lirael first begins to work in the library, she’s given a whistle, so she can call for help if she needs to.

Quite soon after beginning her work there, Lirael finds a small figurine of a dog. It has the unusual characteristic of being able to come alive – at full dog size. The dog tells Lirael her name is ‘the Disreputable Dog’.

She becomes Lirael’s only friend, and helps her explore the vast library, after hours. That part of the book is sort of an adventure of its own.

Then one day, Lirael learns her true destiny. Not until then does the reader find out her connection to Sabriel.

Lirael has to leave her home and travel far away to help stop a great evil from spreading. There she finally finds out what her true calling is.

Her quest takes her beyond the boundaries of life itself.

This story is very dark and frightening. You’ll encounter many ‘living dead’ and several of the characters are in grave danger.

Like the first book in the series about Sabriel, Lirael is very well written, exciting and scary. I immediately liked Lirael and to some extent identified with her. I haven’t found my place in life either. Not that I think I’ll ever find my ‘destiny’, like Lirael did, but it makes it easier to understand her situation, despite the obvious differences.

I liked the mysterious and even ominous library and most of all ‘the Disreputable Dog’. A very good companion for such a dangerous quest.

If you liked Sabriel, I’m sure you’ll like Lirael too.

Oct 23


Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

I’m really glad I discovered the book Sabriel by the Australian author Garth Nix. After I’d read that, there was a sequel – Lirael and by then I was keeping my fingers crossed the next book in the trilogy would be out soon. I don’t remember how long I had to wait, but it wasn’t too long, I think.

All three books are fantastic. Well written, imaginative and filled with detail. I especially love the maps and the culture. The world Sabriel comes from is credible and even in a way realistic.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m beginning to get a little tired of the typical ‘sword and sorcery’ fake-medieval setting in fantasy stories. That doesn’t mean I can’t be hooked by an exceptionally well written story if it happens to be like that.

It’s just that if there is another well written story with a kind of late 18, early 19 century setting, I generally prefer it. I also like 20th and 21th century settings in fantasy books. Some of those might come across as a sort of mix between science fiction and fantasy. Normally I’m not too keen on modern SF, but this sort of thing usually works for me.

Back to Sabriel. In the first book, she’s a young girl, who’s still at boarding school – boarding school, because her father is the Abhorsen – a sort of good necromancer – in any case a man with strong magical powers. He lives in a sort of magic world that – literally – exists next to the ‘modern’ world – in this case a sort of early 20th century one. When I say literally, I mean that there’s a border – a real border – you can cross to enter the world of magic. The borderland between modern and magic is sort of special.

Technology doesn’t work very well, so the soldiers watching the border can’t use their rifles there. Instead they use bayonets and other blades. Depending on how the wind blows, strange, dangerous creatures can cross into the ‘modern’ world and the soldiers are there to prevent them from doing so.

Sabriel herself has entered the kingdom of the dead learning necromancy from her father. At least she’s gone beyond the first gates. Further on, it gets trickier. She can – in theory – wake the dead or at least call back their spirits, but she’s not supposed to do that. It’s too dangerous.

Still, when a rabbit belonging to a little girl from Sabriel’s school, is hit by a car, Sabriel can’t resist bringing it back. No danger follows on that, but soon enough danger seeks out Sabriel anyway.

She’s studying ‘ordinary’ magic at her school, which isn’t too far from the border. Her teacher is called ‘magistrix’ which to me sounds like a cool title. Only the older girls are allowed to take magic, but naturally, Sabriel is already skilled in various types of magic.

When danger comes to seek her out, she has to return beyond the border and try to stop the evil that has crossed over from another dimension. A strange cat creature helps her. It’s really a demon that’s been trapped by an earlier Abhorsen. He’s quite reluctant to help, but is bound to obey the Abhorsen or the Abhorsen-in-training.

There are plenty of ‘undead’ – something that I’m not too keen on – a mysterious sleeping person, swords and bells and all kinds of magic in this story. I won’t tell you too many details about the actual plot, but it’s certainly not for very young children. Certain parts of the story scared me and I was relatively grown up when I read it.

Sabriel is a heroine to my taste. She’s tough, but not cruel and she has integrity. It’s clear that she’s made of the ‘right stuff’ to succeed her father when that day comes.

If you think you’d like a slightly different fantasy world, go on. Read Sabriel. If you like the first book, I’m sure you’ll like the two sequels.


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