Wizards of Once: Never and Forever by Cressida Cowell

Title: Wizards of Once: Never and Forever

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hodder Children’s/Hachette

Published:  22nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 385

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The final book in the Wizards of Once quartet. Warriors and Wizards combine forces against the dreadful power of the Kingwitch, whose searing evil threatens not only the Wildwoods, but all its creatures.

The No.1 bestselling series from the author of How to Train Your Dragon. Can Xar and Wish unite their worlds in time to save the Wildwoods? Will it be Never… or Forever? The final book in the magical The Wizards of Once series. Xar and Wish have found the ingredients for the Spell-to-get-rid-of-Witches. Now the Kingwitch is calling them to the lake of the lost. But first they must mix the potion in the Cup of Second Chances …

Can they defeat the hungry Tatzelwerm monster and escape with the cup? And will the spell be strong enough to lift the CURSE OF THE WILDWOODS… or will Witches reign FOREVER?


“A rollercoaster of suspense and surprise” GUARDIAN
“Cowell is moving towards national treasure” BIG ISSUE
“Another coup from Cowell” SUNDAY TIMES

~*~

Wish and Xar have come to the end of their journey, and with this final offering, we must bid our unusual, yet well suited heroes adieu. But first, we must join them on their quest to unite the Warrior and Wizard worlds against the witches and defeat the Tatzelwerm monster. Their parents, Encanzo and Sychorax, are still chasing their children across the Bronze Age world they live in.

The final book in the Wizards of Once series picks up directly after Knock Three Times, and concludes a rollercoaster of a year, filled with surprises, suspense, friendship and magic. Each book has built on the previous one, and has included references and common phrases across the series to link the books, told through the eyes of the Unknown Narrator (we may find out who they are in this book), and with themes that are universal yet told in a unique way. There are elements of traditional tales and myths of the Celtic tradition threaded throughout and leading up to something that I didn’t see coming, and its inclusion, and the way it was done, was very clever, and hopefully readers will appreciate it.

This is a fun series, filled with danger, humour, magic, family and loyalty. It is about pushing past prejudice and accepting people for the kind of person they are. It is about loyalty and helping your friends when things get tough, or when they need help to overcome the challenges that they face with the Witchstain and Wish’s Magic-that-works-on-iron.

Wish and Xar are at first, unlikely friends and heroes, but when they band together with Perdita, Caliburn, the sprites, and many others, they form an alliance that brings old feelings and tensions to the surface and forces the Wizard and Warrior forts to become allies as they search for their children and try to defeat the Kingwitch.  Will they succeed, and at what cost?

This lively and rollicking adventure has come to its end. And as sad as it is to say farewell to Xar and Wish, the end gives a delightfully tasty hint as to what the Unknown Narrator might see in their future. But you should read all four in order – no skipping, now – to find out what happens, and what this will lead to.

Let your imagination run wild and enjoy the final book in this quartet. A wonderful series of magic and friendship for all readers aged eight and older.

Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Title: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club)

Author: Monique Mulligan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pilyara Press

Published: 18th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.

~*~

Amy and Matt have moved to Blackwood to escape the vicious whispers and rumours that have plagued them for the past three years. They’re hoping Blackwood will be a new start as they try to reconnect. Yet their marriage is crumbling as Amy tries to navigate her fears, her grief, and her new café, Brewed to Taste. Here, she starts to make friends: Devi, Nick, Bonnie, Irene, and Irene’s great-granddaughter, Ashlee, June, Frank and several others. They form the Around the World Supper Club, and for a while, things seem okay.

Until local gossips, Una and her daughter Sharon, unleash Pandora’s Box – and humiliate Amy, undoing all the hard work. Despite the support everyone else gives Amy, allowing her to talk about what happened when she is ready, Matt threatens to leave. Three years ago, Amy had been in a car accident in Germany, where her daughter, Pandora, died. Amy has run from the secrets and innuendo, the accusations, and finds herself facing them head on in Blackwood.

Most books revolving around a relationship are about the couple getting together, the first delightful sparks of a new romance. The ups and downs, the magic of the first kiss. Usually, these books end with a happily ever after, fading to black as readers imagine the couple together forever. Very rarely do we find out what happens after. The what happens after, and what leads to a family or friends fracturing is sometimes more interesting. A tragedy, perhaps, has created a rift.

This is the premise of Monique Mulligan’s debut novel, Wherever You Go, the first in the Around the World Supper Club series. Wherever You Go introduces the key characters, but mainly revolves around Amy and Matt settling into life in Blackwood and finding a way back to each other and their lives together. It is a touching look at friendship, family, grief and loss, and how people recover and work towards redemption, even if this redemption is insular, and something they need to do for themselves, not for society or legal reasons.

Monique has created a powerful and touching story that gives hope, makes you shed tears and sends readers on a roller coaster of emotions as they go on Amy and Matt’s journey. The book is told in three perspectives: Irene, Matt and Amy. We see the world through their eyes, experience their emotions and their reactions. It doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of depression and anxiety, or the frustrations that some people feel when faced with this. It allows for all characters to express themselves and slowly, come to terms with what is going on in a powerful, emotive and significant way that acknowledges that grief affects everyone differently.

This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful. It allows readers to acknowledge their own anxieties and worries, and centres female experiences, characters and autonomy whilst at the same time, allowing Irene, Bonnie and Amy to who they are within what they want in their lives and society.

Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell

Title: Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 460

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The No.1 bestselling series from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, Cressida Cowell. Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful Magic in an exciting fantasy adventure.

The No.1 bestselling series from current Waterstones Children’s Laureate and author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, Cressida Cowell. Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful Magic in an exciting fantasy adventure. Wish and Xar are outlaws on the run, hunted by Warriors, Wizards and worst of all by WITCHES …

Can they find the ingredients for the spell to get rid of Witches before the Kingwitch gets his talons on the Magic-that-Works-on-Iron?

Their next Quest is the most terrifying and treacherous of all … and someone is going to betray them. Are you ready to KNOCK THREE TIMES?

~*~

Wish, Xar, and Bodkin are back, along with their band of sprites and animals. They’re outlaws on the run from Wizards and Warriors, and Witches as they continue their quest to find the ingredients for a spell to get rid of witches. Given sanctuary in a school for magic, the heroes must face their fears, and maintain their cover – until they’re betrayed. We meet more fun characters, who have links to some of the ones we already know as well. Welcome to the third and penultimate book in the Wizards of Once series!

I’ve been reading this series this month as I was sent the fourth book to review, and have now caught up, and am ready to delve into book four to find out what happens next for Wish and Xar.

While Xar and Wish are in hiding, their parents are hunting them, and this builds up the tension and excitement. This is one of those series that you never know what is around the corner, whilst still drawing on fairytale, myth and fantasy tropes that have been pulled together to create something vibrant, new and fresh in a fantastic quartet that ends with Never and Forever, out on the 22nd of September.

I have demolished the first three books within about two weeks, and I have adored each one. Children’s literature has such a rich history, and Cressida Cowell has brought something vibrant and exciting to the world of children’s books and literature. It’s so refreshing to see characters with visible differences, with learning disabilities reflected in a positive way. All kids will hopefully see something of themselves in Xar, Wish and Bodkin, and the unity of friendship between these three characters who some might say are unlikely friends – Xar is a Wizard, Wish is a Warrior and Bodkin is an Assistant Bodyguard, and everything tells them they should be enemies and there are lines that Bodkin should not cross when it comes to class systems in the Warrior fort.

Xar and Wish are on a dangerous journey, but Cressida Cowell has executed these dangers, so readers feel on edge, but so that they don’t get too scared. Magic abounds in this book as Wish and Xar seek to rid Xar of evil Magic, and Wish grapples with her Magic eye, and Magic that works on iron (cleverly written as Cressida draws on the folktale trope that magical folk can’t touch iron, which is a nice touch). The Unknown Narrator tells this story, and their nice little intrusions make the story fun. The identity of this narrator is also part of the quest to destroy the Kingwitch and has been an ongoing mystery throughout the first three books – and hopefully, their identity will be revealed in the final one.

I have had a few guesses as to who it might be. It could be anyone, and this is what makes this so fun. All readers are going to have their own opinion. Onwards to the final book, which shall be reviewed here next week!

If you have read the first three books, who do you think the Unknown Narrator is?

Eighty Years of Puffin

In 1940, Allen Lane started the Puffin imprint of Penguin to create non-fiction books to help children understand what was going on around them during World War Two. Since then, giants, spies, Oompa Loompas, magic, and many other beloved characters have entranced generations of children and built their reading confidence.

Puffin celebrates its 80th birthday this year, and has many promotions going on. If you buy two Puffin books at your local bookseller, you will receive a special edition water bottle, while stocks last. Some of the most well-known and beloved authors have been published by Puffin: Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Harvey, R.A. Spratt, and many more. Puffin also published some of the classics of childhood: Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and many more.

The children’s section of any bookstore is vastly populated by Puffin books. This year, as stated in the article below, there are many great celebrations going on. The article also has a full history of Puffin and the evolution of its logo, a Puffin, and why Allen Lane chose the Puffin.

Source: Penguin Random House

Puffin logos over the years

I still have all my Roald Dahl Puffin books, and have many others from R.A. Spratt and Jacqueline Harvey, and Melina Marchetta, just to name a few.

Happy 80th Birthday Puffin! What a time to be alive to see an anniversary like this, and for a company that has launched many readers into the world, and will continue to do so.

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Books and Bites Bingo Update Two

In the past four months, I have managed to fill in twenty out of twenty-five categories in Books and Bites Bingo with Monique Mulligan. I have a few of the others planned, and others I need to decide. I have three months to complete this and my other challenges and hope that I can make it through and get as many as possible read by the thirty-first of December!

It’s been a slow process at times – especially with the specific categories, as finding these books has sometimes been a challenge. Especially during a pandemic when we can’t all get to libraries or bookstores, there are times when I have read what I have and sometimes found ways to make the book fit into my challenges where possible.

Looking forward to reading the others I have, but for now, here are the ones I have completed!

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Books and Bites Book Bingo Wherever You Go

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

One of the squares in Books and Bites book bingo with Monique Mulligan was Wherever You Go, her debut novel in the Around the World Supper Club series. Monique kindly sent me a copy to review, and it is linked here. When I first saw this bingo card, I wondered what this square could mean, and it turned out to be a specific book, but the topic had me wondering if it meant something else and was open to interpretation.

This powerful story of grief and redemption is beautifully written, very evocative and delves into themes that people don’t often talk about, or sometimes, want to talk about. It is about a marriage after the happily ever after – and how tragedy can alter someone’s life, and moving past this, if they can. My review for the 18th of September goes into more depth.  

I have now completed three rows in this challenge and have five books left to read – with a couple chosen, but I still need to read them.

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Eco-themes: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

A Neil Gaiman book:

Short story collection: Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen app

Published the year you were born:

Makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

Someone you love’s fave book:

Made into a TV Series:

A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Fave childhood book:

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Title: The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder

Published: 20th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The No.1 Bestselling Series. Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

The No.1 Bestselling Series Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Witches are creating havoc in the Wildwoods and danger lurks behind every tree trunk.

Wish is in possession of a powerful, Magic Spelling Book; Xar has a dangerous Witchstain on his hand. Together they can save the Wildwoods from the curse of the Witches but they are separated by the highest wall imaginable, and time is running out …

It was unlikely that these heroes should meet in the first place. Is it possible they are destined to meet TWICE?

~*~

Picking up several weeks after the first book, Twice Magic begins with Xar trapped in a prison for dangerous Magic people. Wish is back at the Warrior fort. As they grapple with their new situations, the Wildwoods are attacked by Witches. Xara and Wish reunite – and begin to fight the curse before time runs out – but can they convince their parents to put aside their differences?

Wish and Xar visit a dying giant as part of this journey, where all fairy tale and fantasy tropes are combined to tell a unique story and series, aimed at middle grade readers. But readers of all ages will enjoy this series. I’m working my way through this series and am halfway through at this point – with book three ready to go as soon as I can start it.

The continuation of the themes of friendship, unity and acceptance are ever present in this novel, and build on what has come before. Wish and Xar are powerful and unique characters, who promote creativity, intelligence and empathy, and the role these play in problem solving, friendship and understanding each other. The world is also exquisitely detailed, and the illustrations by Cressida add something magic and unique to the text, creating a story that is full of life and joy.

Danger lurks beneath the surface of Xar and Wish’s fun. They’re on a quest to defeat the Kingwitch, and remove the Witchstain from Xar’s hand, and they are accompanied by a band of sprites, including Squeezjoos, a raven called Caliburn and Wish’s bodyguard, Bodkin. Together, they are going to save the world!

I’m in love with this series – the good thing is, I have all four to read, so I don’t have to wait to find out what happens, but at the same time, a little sad that there are only four books to enjoy. It is an imaginative series, and I think the use of an Unknown Narrator telling the story is a powerful and creative way to draw readers in. With each book, the mystery of just who this narrator is intensifies and becomes a driving force to hook readers of all ages in, along with the magical quest Xar and Wish are on.

This series manages to have an ongoing thread as well as a separate narrative for each book, which adds to the magic and intrigue, and ensures that readers remain engaged and the plot is steadily built upon effectively. I’m looking forward to delving further into this world, which is in a way historical, if we are to believe the Unknown Narrator, that this is a world before the British Isles were known as the British Isles. Cressida also cleverly draws on folklore and pulls it into the story effectively and ensures that whilst it is still recognisable as folklore, there are also unique twists on each characteristic and the individual characters, especially Wish and Xar.

A fantastic series about acceptance for readers aged eight and over.  

Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas

Cover of Zombierella. Green cover with gold leaves and bigs, a black girl with curly hair in a leaf dress. She is standing between a ghost cat and ghost dog, and two headstones. One headstone reads Joseph Coelho and the other reads illustrated by Freya Hartas.

Title: Fairy Tales Gone Bad: Zombierella

Author: Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas

Genre: Fantasy, Humour

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: The first in a funny, deliciously dark, three-part series of twisted classics, written in verse by award-winning poet Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas.

A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all? Crawl out of the grave and step into your mushroom carriage for this haunting and humorous adventure of the undead girl searching for her happily ever after.

  • This is Joseph Coelho’s debut middle-grade novel.
  • Joseph Coelho won the 2015 CLPE Children’s Poetry Award, is the presenter of BBC’s Teach Poetry and features in Discovery Education’s Poetry Curriculum.
  • Freya Hartas illustrated the 2012 Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning book, Dark Lord: Teenage Years.

~*~

Fairy tales have always been retold, from the days they were oral tales, to when they were first recorded by collectors such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to contemporary retellings in literature – Kate Forsyth, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and many others, or in television and film, such as the television show Once Upon A Time. Each retelling brings something new to the stories that we have all grown up with in some way.

Cinderella is one of the most well-known fairy tales, that has many traditional iterations, and is also the subject of manty retellings over the years. The most recent one that I have come across is Zombierella, the first in a three-part series by Joseph Coelho, turning fairy tales on their heads completely, and calling the series Fairy Tales Gone Bad.

The essence of the Cinderella tale, a young girl living with her evil stepfamily, is here, but with a difference: Cindrella does not meet her fairy godmother, she meets the Shadow of Death. In the traditional tale, Cinderella has three nights as a zombie to charm the visiting prince, who is hiding a secret of his own, and get revenge on her fake family? Will she find a happily ever after?

This hilarious book is told in verses, some that rhyme, and some that don’t. It uses the traditions of fairy tales and the grotesque of children’s literature by authors like Roald Dahl (though not quite as over the top as Dahl), and creates a fun adventure that is diverse, unique and traditional at the same time. Joseph and Freya have created a beautifully diverse tale, marrying their prose and illustrations seamlessly. Freya’s illustrations enhance Joseph’s story and give new life to the Cinderella fairy tale.

Bringing in zombies gives a new angle to this old story, and the execution is exquisitely done, ensuring that all readers, no matter their age, will be wholly engaged and entertained as they read. It is also the kind of book that can be savoured, or devoured. I read it in one sitting and found it a wonderful example of reception studies and the act of retelling traditional or classic tales and stories. The beauty of these tales is that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and for a myriad of audiences. This new series is one of those examples of how well it works, and the power of illustrating diversity and its role in literature and popular culture.

I’m looking forward to what comes next – there are so many fairy tales to play with, and so many avenues to go down – so many possibilities! I love fairy tales and the retellings – each retelling brings something new to the tale and tradition of fairy tales. Will there be a happy ending for Zombierella? You’ll just have to read and find out!

An excellent middle grade book that all ages can enjoy.

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizards of onceTitle: Wizards of Once

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette/Hodder Children’s Books

Published: 8th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 455

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON comes an exciting high-adventure series – set in an ancient, magical time, full of Wizards, Warriors, Giants and Sprites.

#1 Sunday Times Bestseller Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Until the Warriors came…

Xar is a Wizard boy who has no Magic and will do anything to get it. Wish is a Warrior girl, but she owns a banned Magical Object, and she will do anything to conceal it.

In this whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must forget their differences if they’re going to make it to the dungeons at Warrior Fort.

Where something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring…

~*~

Wish is a Warrior, and she owns a banned Magical Object. She’s out riding with her bodyguard, Bodkin, when she meets Xar, a Wizard boy without magic, beyond the age when magic usually comes in. Xar and Wish clash as they argue about who is superior in a fantasy land that mirrors the British Isles before they were known as such, according to the Unknown Narrator, who intrudes into the story with commentary every now and then, breaking the fourth wall in a very clever and entertaining way.

Xar and Wish forget their differences quickly when one of Xar’s sprites, Squeezjoos, is infected with Witch-blood. But saving Squeezjoos will be a challenge. Should they succeed in their quest to get into the dungeons of the Warrior fort, they could unlock a dangerous enemy that nobody wants to face.

I picked up this series because Hachette sent me the fourth and final book to review. That book is out at the end of the month, and I decided to read the whole series and have fun with it. I was absolutely hooked from the first page and devoured the first book within two days. I loved the alternating chapters that moved seamlessly back and forth when necessary, so we understood everything that was happening and how it fitted together.

This is one of those unique novels and series that is funny, serious and magical at the same time. It draws you into its world and invites you to experience every aspect through Xar and Wish, Cressida’s fabulous and evocative prose and her delightful, fun and joyful illustrations that contribute wonderfully to the story. I am setting out to read all four back-to-back during the next few weeks.

As the Unknown Narrator says, this is a world set in the British Isles, long before this name was used, feeding into the delicious fantasy world that Cressida Cowell has built, and that cleverly leads into the second book, which I am about to start reading. This looks to be a promising and clever series, drawing on tropes and common themes within fantasy, and giving them a twist that will entertain and capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie

HavocTitle: Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Author: Rebecca McRitchie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: From the talented author of Whimsy & Woe comes a series about Cora Bell, who is magical – but could she also be a Havoc?

When magic darkens …

Cora Bell has discovered she is full of magic. But without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake.

When Cora begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

~*~

We last saw Cora, Tick and Tock meeting King Clang in the fairy world. With the revelation that Cora is a syphon, the fairies must find a way to help her stay away from Archibald Drake, and keep her from falling into his clutches. They set off on a journey to keep Cora away from Archibald, but also to find a cure for the nightmares and cracks in her skin, while they search the magical world for Cora’s family – if they’re still alive.

Cora must fight to control her magic, and a chance meeting with a half-troll, Ogg, will lead Cora, Tick and Tock towards an unforeseen battle and uniting with someone least expected. As with the first book, Havoc! ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the read wanting more.

The second book in the Jinxed series delivers another exciting page turner for readers aged eight and older, especially confident readers. It is filled with magic and adventure, and a rollicking fantasy adventure, led by a wonderful girl character, who is at times brave, but also, a reluctant hero who just wants friends, a family and for things to go back to normal. To be with Dot and Scratch. These characters are rich and fulfilling and grow with each book.

AWW2020This fantastic new series from Rebecca McRitchie pulls the reader along on an adventure with Cora and the fairies, Tick and Tock through the fantasy world, and the various towns and places they visit are rich in detail and unique characters drawn from what we know about various fantasy and fairy tale tropes. At the same time, these tropes are spun on their heads into unique and imaginative characters who fill the world with fun and whimsy whilst on a journey of discovery and friendship.

Cora at times feels alone – but Tick and Tock stick with her through thick and thin, proving that friendship is one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against evil, or those forces that want to destroy Cora. The syphon world is still a bit of a secret, and I hope, and think, we will learn more as the series goes on. It is a series that is best read in order, as the first two books end with a to be continued, and book two picks up immediately where book one leaves off. This gives the books a sense of urgency and immediacy: the characters need to act, and they need to act NOW!

The Jinxed series is one that is timeless. It’s not set in a specific time, and so, is a welcome escape from current events. We all need this kind of book right now, where we can just escape into another time and place, or somewhere distant and imagined. A world where what we’re facing now doesn’t exist. I gobbled Jinxed and Havoc up back to back within three or four days collectively, and I am very eager for the next book to find out what happens next!