Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not just your typical wizard-school story!

The Natural OrderThe Natural Order by R.J. Vickers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do not be deterred by the apparent plot similarities to Harry Potter - "The Natural Order" may be a magic school-type novel, but it is a wholly original take on the genre. The protagonist, Tristan, is serving time as a juvenile delinquent, accused of manslaughter. As he mourns the brother whose death he caused, a stranger turns up and whisks him away, along with 14 other students, to an obscure location. Here he is thrown into a school unlike any he has ever known - a school with an entirely unique array of subjects. Here he makes friends, and a few fiends, and begins to unearth the dark secrets behind the Lair.

Well written, and enjoyable, R.J. Vickers has designed a magic system that is uniquely her own. She has created a believable cast of troubled teens, sprinkled in a generous amount of typical High School drama and insecurities and added a dusting of magic. Her concepts are well considered and should lead into a promising series as Tristan and his friends discover more of what their future entails.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Celtic Delight

The Black Swans (The Antrim Cycle #1)The Black Swans by N.W. Moors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Black Swans" beautifully blends reality and folklore in an engaging and romantic tale. It tells of Taisie, a young and relatively shy woman, who lives in the small (fictional) town of Antrium, Maine. She spends her days knitting and working in a shop, living with her grandmother, with occasional forays out on the lake. Her life takes a turn for the better when she hears Celtic band, The Black Swans, and feels a connection with their piper. But there is more to this family group than meets the eye, and it is not mere coincidence that a flock of black swans have taken up to life on her lake.

Eloquently written, with a delightful cast of characters and a touch of magic, "The Black Swans" should satisfy anyone who loves folklore, fairy tale re-tellings, romantic fantasy, and a good read.

My only complaints is that the ending felt a little rushed, and the author's knowledge of swan biology may have been lacking although, to be fair, I am sure there are plenty of people out there that believe swans eat fish and Taisie never did get around to actually researching them. I am, alas, a bit of a zoology-pedant when it comes to writing.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Strange and Beautiful

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and GoliathThe Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful and dark, haunting and mesmerizing. The prose is beautiful, the atmosphere creepy and delicious. The colourful cast of characters, equally delightful. The plot is strange, richly layered and switching between narrators (all in first person). Definitely has that Victorian charm, found in such books as The Night Circus.

A wonderful read, even if quite an unusual one. SIngular and extraordinary indeed.

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