It has been a long time since I read His Dark Materials, and I very much enjoyed my time back in Pullman’s Brytain. A curious and thoughtful young boy lives with his parents, in a pub outside Oxford, but as he becomes involved in the life of baby Lyra, he must make a dangerous journey. It’s a magical world, in many senses, and the journey is delightful, frightening, heart-wrenching and full of wonder. I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next instalment.
Totally bizarre, The Last Days of New Paris certainly isn’t a book for everyone. It is alternate history set in two time periods, 1941 and 1950. What is created in 1940, leaves Thibaut and Sam still fighting Nazis in 1950 Paris, along with surrealist art that has come to life, and demons. It’s kind of like looking at surrealist artworks; I don’t really have any idea of what is going on, but it is disturbing, intriguing, frightening and somehow beautiful.
The Improbability of Love is the story of an 18th Century French painting, which turns up in a junk shop, and sets an awful lot of drama in motion. It’s a fast-paced mystery/thriller with elements of chick lit and satire. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, sometimes the sense of everything going wrong before it could go right, just made me want to put it down, and I found some aspects over done, but the resolution was satisfying and the journey often amusing or engaging.
Every Heart a Doorway is an odd little story about a school for children who walked through doorways to strange lands, that on their return home, they long for. It started really well, and there is lots of imaginative detail, but I found it just too short and abrupt to have captured me fully. The characters were well drawn, if a little self-consciously diverse, but the action happened too quickly. It would probably make a good movie, that would be too scary for me!
Set in an alternate, modern day Britain, The Gilded Cage is about power and the class system, with a magical twist. The aristocrats, or Equals, have magic, called Skill, and they rule, making every commoner spend 10 years of their lives as slaves to them. One family begin their slave days together and become entwined with Equals, caught up in political machinations as they try to protect each other. It’s dark and clever, engrossing and, sadly, the recently released first book in the series. Now, to wait for the next….
I love this book, and I will re-read it all my life. Such breadth and scope, such depth of loyalty, faithfulness, commitment and love, such exciting and moving adventures. It is a powerful and thoroughly beautiful story.
Sorcerer to the Crown is a lush, vibrant, imaginative and thoroughly delightful tale. Zacharias Wythe is the Sorcerer Royal in Regency London. As a freed, African slave, he is not well liked and has much to worry him when he meets Prunella Gentleman, who, full of magical ability when it was suppressed in women, turns his, and everyone else’s, world inside out. Engaging characters, a clever plot and just the right amount of humour and romance, I really loved this book.
I really love this series; I do hope there will be more! This time, Myfanwy Thomas is not the main focus, but she is still awesome, bringing together two secret organisations that traditionally hate each other. We follow two new characters, one from each organisation, through supernatural and scientific shenanigans, always with humour and imaginative detail. The London setting, the wild and wonderful powers, the tough women and the humour make this such a fun read.
Seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow’s world is divided by the colour of blood with Red bloods of Norta dominated by the gifted Silver- blooded elite. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until her fate becomes entwined with the Silver’s royal court. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to help the growing Red rebellion of the Scarlet Guard. A book of loyalty and betrayal, power and revenge, desire and hatred all skilfully woven into this fast-paced, compelling fantasy by debut author Victoria Aveyard.
I was on the verge of abandoning this book, it really didn’t hold me, but I kept going just in case. After beginning in India, it is set in Victorian England where Gemma Doyle has been sent to a stuffy finishing school after her mother’s mysterious death. Gemma and her friends discover a way into a different realm and struggle with that power, and the evil that awaits. It wasn’t quite convincingly Victorian, or English, enough for me; the girls were too modern, but the real problem was that I didn’t find the plot that exciting. Plenty of nasty girls and angst plus a little bit of mystery, magic and steamy dreaming. I’ll give the rest a miss.