The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters

turn of midnight.jpgTitle:  The Turn of Midnight

Author: Minette Walters

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 472

Price: $32.99

Synopsis:For all those who love Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, and Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders comes the worldwide-bestselling Minette Walters’ compelling and fascinating historical novel of the Plague years.

As the year 1349 approaches, the Black Death continues its devastating course across England. In Dorseteshire, the quarantined people of Develish question whether they are the only survivors.

Guided by their beloved young mistress, Lady Anne, they wait, knowing that when their dwindling stores are finally gone they will have no choice but to leave. But where will they find safety in the desolate wasteland outside?

One man has the courage to find out.

Thaddeus Thurkell, a free-thinking, educated serf, strikes out in search of supplies and news. A compelling leader, he and his companions quickly throw off the shackles of serfdom and set their minds to ensuring Develish’s future – and freedom for its people.

But what use is freedom that cannot be gained lawfully? When Lady Anne and Thaddeus conceive an audacious plan to secure her people’s independence, neither foresees the life-threatening struggle over power, money and religion that follows …

~*~

Picking up soon after the end of The Last Hours, which came out last year, The Turn of Midnight begins in 1348, and ends in 1349, during the dark days of the plague coming to England, and devouring the land and people, except for those sheltering in the demesne of Develish, overseen by Lady Anne after the death of her husband, Sir Richard. Out on a journey to find survivors and information are serfs led by Thaddeus Thurkell, whom she trusts on this quest, and eventually will head out on a quest of her own to help him. Back at home, her daughter Eleanor is ill, and needs care and help to survive in the absence of her mother. As the novel progresses, truths and scandals threaten to come out about Thaddeus, Eleanor, and religious leaders continue their plot against Lady Anne, threatened by her knowledge and authority as a woman who oversees Develish. The Turn of Midnight is the epic conclusion to The Last Hours and wraps up the threads that began in that book and leads to a conclusion that is satisfying and enjoyable, ensuring that the characters all get their stories wrapped up and resolved nicely.

This duology explores a time in history – medieval history and the plague, known as the pestilence throughout the novel, and the dynamics of power between the classes – the nobles and the serfs, and the religious figureheads, and their roles in the demesne, as well as gender and the ways the religious figures try to use claims of heresy, and other accusations against Lady Anne to take over – will they succeed, or will the demesne remain in Lady Anne’s control?

Allied with Lady Anne are the household staff she leaves in charge of Eleanor and the household, much to the chagrin of the religious factions. In the fourteenth century, religion played an important role, and despite being religious, Lady Anne’s skills and desires to teach Eleanor and Isabella were frowned upon by the church. It is also a novel of humanity at its best and worst. At its best, Lady Anne’s decision to bring in the healthy people of all classes and ages, saving her demesne from the plague. It is a novel filled with history, and intrigue, and mysteries that are woven in and out, throughout each perspective that is told, back and forth between the quest and the demesne and what is happening, ensuring that story is given a full body and dense, yet amazingly intricate threads and characters that revolve around a variety of issues around gender, class and religion that are still in play today, and that still affect people all around the world today in a variety of ways.

Like other historical fiction, the themes are universal, ideas around humanity and destruction, but placed in a different setting, and testing people in different ways and with different societal implications and challenges that change and evolve over time. It is one of those novels which is dense and intense, yet at the same time, summons you and begs you to read on, because there is so much to know, so many unanswered questions that need to be resolved. It does this nicely, and in a satisfying way that shows the expectations of people are not always right, and that people who try to undermine those they wish to will not always succeed.

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Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

have sword, will travel.jpgTitle: Have Sword, Will Travel

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams, comes this hilarious, action-packed adventure featuring a very unlikely knight, an admirably stubborn girl and a sword with attitude.

When Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, something very unexpected happens … the sword starts to talk! Much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight. Eleanor would love to become a knight – but she’s not the one with the sword. Unearthing Biter is only the start of their troubles; soon boy, girl and sword must depart on a noble quest to save their kingdom from threats – in both human and dragon form.

~*~

In a new series that started last year, Garth Nix has teamed up with Sean Williams to create a medieval-esque world, filled with knights and dragons, and dark creatures threatening to take over the kingdom, as well as enchanted swords that talk back to those who wield them. What could be more fun? Well, a world where girls have as much of a chance to become a knight as the boys do! In the beginning, we meet Odo and Eleanor as they are undertaking daily tasks for their family and village, looked after by Sir Halfdan, and often teased by twin brothers, Aaric and Addyson. During these tasks, they discover a sword lying in a pool of water, and pull it out, thinking it belongs to Sir Halfdan. When it begins to talk after Odo’s blood awakens it, and introduces itself (or himself, as it turns out), as  Hildebrand Shining Foebiter, Scourge of Scourger, Daragonslayer, and becomes known as Biter the Dragonslayer, or Biter, for short, by Eleanor and Odo, who are on a quest to supposedly save the people of their country from a devastating dragon known as Quenwolf, who is feared throughout the land. Biter knights Odo before the quest, where they come across a female knight known as Sir Saskia, and another magical sword known as Runnel – Biter’s sister.

But all is not as it seems with the dragon, the quest, or Sir Saskia – and Odo and Eleanor must journey across the lands and meet Quenwolf, to find out what is happening before they can return home.

In the few Garth Nix books I have read, the female hero is front and centre, and breaking the mould of what a princess or female fantasy character is expected to do. She is daring, and eager, yet not perfect. She longs for adventure and becoming a knight, whereas Odo, knighted by Biter, would rather stay home in safety, and is a rather reluctant knight, but with Biter and Eleanor’s help – which he doesn’t always want – will become braver, but still desires to return home.

In this story, we have everything: a gutsy girl, a reluctant hero, a kingdom under attack, spies, dragons, magic, dark creatures, and of course, magical, talking swords that don’t shy away from being snarky or sarcastic when it is called for. It is a world that is in many ways, familiar – a low-tech world with magic, dragons and knights, yet with a newness that carries the story in leaps and bounds as Odo and Eleanor travel across the country, to keep out of harm’s way, and save their village and the kingdom from the dark forces that threaten to take over and who start seeking to hunt them down as the story settles into a flow that will continue into the next book, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, which will hopefully be reviewed during the week, as I am, at the time of writing this post, nearly finished it.

I’ve got a few Garth Nix books to read in my many stacks of books and will eventually be getting to them to see what other spectacular characters he has written for all readers to enjoy and relate to. A great start to a new series for younger readers – well, readers of all ages if I am being honest. I’m now looking forward to what, if anything, follows Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.

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Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Lennys book of everythingTitle: Lenny’s Book of Everything

Author: Karen Foxlee

Genre: Literary Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: 19.99

Synopsis: Our mother had a dark heart feeling. Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their mother, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named.

A big-hearted novel about loving and letting go by an award-winning author.

Such a big heart and not a beat out of place.‘ – MELINA MARCHETTA

Tough, tender and beautiful.’ – GLENDA MILLARD

Unforgettable.’ – ANNA FIENBERG

Karen Foxlee, you’re a genius.‘ – WENDY ORR

~*~

Lenore Spink, known as Lenny, has a younger brother called Davey who won’t stop growing – by the age of seven, he is as tall as a man, and Lenny is often mistaken as his younger sister. They live with their mother, Cynthia, and Lenny dreams of her father, Peter Lenard Spink, returning one day. In all the years Davey has been alive, he hasn’t. When Davey has to go away for tests to see why he keeps growing, Lenny’s mother enters a competition to win a complete build it yourself encyclopaedia set from a company called Burrell’s – and so, Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia becomes a crucial part in the way Lenny and Davey cope with life before, during and after Davey’s diagnosis, as they get each new set of entries for the alphabet and the covers to bind them together, creating a set on the shelf that they dip into, and re-read their favourite bits. Along for the ride with them is Davey’s imaginary pet golden eagle, Timothy, who goes everywhere with them, and will go with them when they run away to Canada to find Peter Lenard Spink. But when they find out how sick Davey is, all dreams of heading up north are quashed, and Lenny uses the Build-It-Yourself Encyclopaedia, and her attempts to find her father, and any other Spinks, to cope with what is happening, and find a way to understand it. With a touching, bittersweet ending, this book is filled with love, family and friendship.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

This was a surprise arrival with my last Allen and Unwin package, and I immediately felt it was going to be good – the cover alone is charming and exquisite – originally die-cut to create the image that overlays the title, I found it inviting and intriguing – what could these mysterious maps mean? Each section is sign posted by a year, a growth spurt in Davey, and a letter entry for the encyclopaedia, connecting each event to a specific letter, and what that meant to Lenny and Davey over the years that spread across the book. This is a book that is not aimed at any one age group – it is universal in its scope and story – with aspects that we can all relate to and recognise in our own lives. We’ve all known the joy of knowledge, of receiving something in the post that we have either been waiting for or that comes as a pleasant surprise. The act of learning something new is an experience we have all had – and encountering our favourite books or topics.

We also, most of us, know the love of family and friends, the comings and goings of people in our lives, and the fragility of life and death, and the challenges that come with caring for someone with an illness or disability and how it impacts everyone in their lives – the challenges and sacrifices, that are made, as well as the love that is shared, and the sense of community that can come about, as they do for Lenny and her family.

This is a novel with a big heart, about a different kind of love than many novels explore – family love – a love that is just as important as romantic love and deserves more focus in the stories we consume. Lenny’s journey also involves accepting what is happening to her brother and is a catalyst for how she comes to understand the world around her.

This is a book with a big heart, that teaches us about love and letting go of those we love, and the strength it can take for this to happen, and the places we can draw it from. I enjoyed this book, it was one of those rare books that refuses to leave you long after closing the last page. It is one that can be enjoyed by many, and I hope it is, and I hope it is as powerful for other readers as it was for me,

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Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2) by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

let sleeping dragons lieTitle: Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2)

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams comes this funny, exciting fantasy adventure about two friends and a couple of swords with attitude.

Odo and Eleanor are excited to be knights. Only … they’re stuck at home waiting for something bigger to come along. That ‘something bigger’ comes to them in the form of an old man named Egda, a warrior named Hundred and an ancient legend about a sleeping dragon.

Odo, Eleanor, and their trusty and talkative swords, Biter and Runnel, are plunged into a quest that will take them (as all good quests must) to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Also, they will need to keep an eye out for dragons.

As they did with Have Sword, Will Travel, fantasy masters Garth Nix and Sean Williams have crafted a tale full of fire, laughs and twists for adventurous readers of all ages.

~*~

Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor return in a new adventure. In Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, they are off on another adventure, much to Eleanor’s joy and enthusiasm, which is in contrast to Odo, who’d rather head back home to work in the family mill. Instead, they embark on another quest to save the kingdom, and find the rightful king, and battles with bile wolves, that their stroppy swords lead them into. Remember, Runnel and Biter are no ordinary swords – they are enchanted, sentient swords, who desire battle and bravery, much to Odo’s chagrin. In the midst of the dangerous battle, they are swept to safety by blind Egda, and the warrior, Hundred.

What follows is another dangerous quest, to find an all-powerful dragon, and stop an imposter taking the throne. To do so, they must risk, their lives, the lives of many villagers along the way, and the lives of Egda and Hundred to awaken an ancient, mythical dragon who can restore order to their world. However, is it worth the risk, or should they let sleeping dragons lie and find another way?

In the second in the series, Odo and Eleanor are back, this time with an entourage and secret identities as they traverse the kingdom to stop the imposter on the throne. Far from the threat of the false knight of Have Sword, Will Travel, Sir Saskia, Odo and Eleanor dodge thieves and people trying to stop them, fight bravely – Eleanor, and reluctantly on Odo’s part. The continuing theme of the reluctant hero in Odo, and Eleanor’s eagerness to partake in the quest and become the best night she can is threaded throughout the novel.

The presence of female characters like Eleanor, Hundred and Saskia, as well as the mystical dragons like Quenwolf shows that female power in these books is an integral part in the story, and drives it forwards just as much as Odo and the male characters, showing that boys and girls can take on, and enjoy roles that traditionally, might not be assigned to them in fantasy novel. It is refreshing to see these roles more and more, and to have good books aimed at readers of all ages and genders, and not at a specific demographic – it allows all readers to imagine themselves as Odo or Eleanor – or even both if they feel like it, and not feel as though they are identifying with the wrong character. For girls to imagine themselves a knight is one of the reasons I have fallen in love with this series.

It has fairy tale elements of a quest, and the magical swords pulled from the stone, or presented by a lake, in a similar manner to Excalibur and King Arthur, to the motifs of the reluctant hero, thrust into a world they do no understand. However, Odo has a supportive family, who encourage him to go on the quest and help him prepare, whereas other motifs involve an orphan thrust into the world. In this world, Odo and Eleanor mentor each other, but are also mentored by their swords, Biter and Runnel – which makes it a very unique and fun series to read.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this new series, and look forward to what happens next, as I am sure there are characters that we have not heard the last of.

Book Bingo Twenty – A Book by an Australian Woman, A book that’s more than 500 pages and a foreign translated novel.

Book bingo take 2

It’s that time of the fortnight, when Book Bingo Saturday with Amanda Barrett of Mrs B’s Book Reviews and Theresa Smith of Theresa Smith Writes has rolled around. As this is my second go around, and after this week and next fortnight, I still have ten squares left, there will be a few posts where two or more squares are included, and where books used from last time will appear in a different square, to ensure complete coverage should I not be able to read something new for any square. As the year rushes towards the final months, I’ve got many books that will potentially fill each of the remaining squares in November and December.

This week sees three books – two by Australian Women, which gives me a bit of a double bingo for that square, and a bingo in a down row – Row Four, as seen below:

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

Row #1 down

 A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover:

A book written by an Australian woman:  Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #4 -BINGO (down)

 

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018,

A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

Across:

Row #3:  –

 A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book:

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018*

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

Row #1 – –

 A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book written more than ten years ago:

A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A Foreign translated novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

cherry tree

First off. a foreign translated novel – The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti. The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree is the story of nine-year-old Mafalda, who has a genetic condition known as Stargardt disease, affecting her vision that will eventually result in complete blindness, exploring a world of disability not often seen in books, and in a realistic, and touching way, using personal experiences to do so.

It is one of those rare books that allows disabled children and readers to see themselves in it, and to see that there are other disabled people out there, not just them. It makes these readers feel less alone, knowing other people live with disability whether it is the same one, or different ones. It is also about finding connections, and people who will stick by you throughout life, and help, and the reality of life and the ups and downs that affect us all. My longer review is linked here.

the clockmakers daughter

The next two books are by Australian women, and both fit into the square for A book by an Australian woman, and one fits into a book over five hundred pages. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. Published on the twelfth of September, The Clockmaker’s Daughter weaves in and out of time and space, between decades and centuries, and throughout generations of people all connected in some way to Birchwood Manor. The focus is on the 1860s, and the Magenta Brotherhood – an artistic guild that hints at Pre-Raphaelite influences, and dips into the early decades of the twentieth century, and hints at a character researching and reading about Birchwood Manor, whose story bookends those f the others, and reaches a conclusion that is a little ambiguous but at the same time, delightfully executed in a way that the stands of ambiguity are what makes the overall mystery work – not everything is straightforward or clean-cut, and not every answer will be uncovered, nor will any sense of justice necessarily be dealt out – or does it need to be? Was an honest mistake made, did people just not realise? It is these unanswered questions, that, even though the mystery of Birdie’s fate is solved in a way, nobody will ever know, and in this instance, it worked out really well.

Kensy and Max 2My third book fills the book by an Australian woman square as well – Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey. In the second book in the Kensy and Max series, the twins are in training to be spies at Pharos, and the headquarters called Alexandria during their Christmas break with their friends and teachers – who are also spies. After Christmas, they will set off to Rome with other classmates who are none-the-wiser to the spy training going on around them. Whilst in Rome, Kensy and Max receive more coded messages from their parents and are caught up in their first mission to save the Prime Minister’s son – but is one of their classmates somehow linked to the disappearance of the boy, or is it merely her family they need to be suspicious of? And which student does everyone need to look out for and avoid? Together with their new friends, Kensy and Max will solve the case – the first of many and keep hot on the trail of their missing parents. Will Kensy and Max finally be reunited with their parents?

Kensy and Max is a series for all readers – regardless of age and gender. They defy gender roles and are heroes for children today, where there are many books coming out where male and female characters defy stereotypes and take on their own identity rather than the stereotypes perpetuated by earlier works, which of course, drew on the world that inspired them. Kensy is the kind of girl hero I needed growing up, to have alongside Matilda Wormwood and Hermione Granger, the kind of character who isn’t what she seems and who stands up for herself and her beliefs and doesn’t let people define her – especially those who don’t like her. She is heroic yet at the same time, can be vulnerable and needs grounding – but threaten those she cares about, like her brother, and I reckon you’d be sorry! I adore this series and I cannot wait for future books to see where Kensy and Max take us next.

Thus ends my twentieth book bingo post of the year. Post twenty-one will be up in two weeks time.

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What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra

what the woods keep.jpgTitle: What the Woods Keep

Author: Katya de Becerra

Genre: Young Adult/Speculative Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:Katya de Becerra’s stunning debut combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home – on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden has tried to put the past behind her, and so far it’s worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and flatmate, Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade ago, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, Del in tow, it begins: neighbours whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible – something that threatens reality itself.

~*~

What the Woods Kept is the haunting and disturbing, yet intriguing and captivating debut of Katya de Becerra. For ten years, Hayden has lived in Brooklyn with her father, following the disappearance of her mother when she was eight in a town called Promise in Colorado near the woods. But for the past decade, Hayden has been able to put the past behind her, focus on getting into college and hanging out with her flatmate, Del. It all starts on Hayden’s eighteenth birthday, when she inherits an old manor in Promise where she spent her early years. Best friend Del in tow, she ventures into the town – and her past, where she is confronted by her nightmares, and the whispered secrets about Hayden’s mother and many secrets kept by those she thought she could trust. Over the course of a few days, Hayden’s life will go from being completely normal to filled with mysterious myths and legends that hint at a supernatural heritage from her mother that Hayden could never have imagined.

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn a dark fantasy, filled with hints of mythology, science fiction, mystery and magical realism, this is a dark and creepy story for young adults and older readers who enjoy unusual stories, and marks my sixty-eighth book of the year for my Australian Women Writers Challenge and my 134th book overall. It is one that whilst slow to begin with, picks up later on, and using first person perspective, interspersed with reports hinting at Hayden’s troubled past and how events in her childhood were explained. The early reports have a creepy feel about them, where the supernatural ekes in, yet there is also a sense of discomfort, as though there might be a perfectly logical explanation as well that Hayden held back from those writing the reports. It is through these reports, and her trip back to Promise, that Hayden discovers there is no logical explanation, that she’s different in many ways.

This is the crux of the novel – Hayden’s journey to uncovering the truth about her mother, and what happened to her, and Hayden’s own identity and what this means – what her father has been hiding from her all these years. To Hayden, these secrets force to her think about leaving – and ignoring everything in Promise, but something is keeping her and Del there – something that cannot be explained. It is haunting in its plot and execution, with short, sharp chapters that heighten the tension and gives an ebb and flow pace to the story, where, as soon as things seem to calm down, the degree of panic and uncertainty rockets sky high, leaving fates of characters uncertain all the way throughout the novel, and the final revelations are a shock to the reader and characters.

What the Woods Keep it is the first horror-like novel is the first I have read in a while. More mystery, fantasy and speculative fiction than horror, there were elements of several genres woven throughout, but with the primary mystery and mythological connections at the forefront of the novel, and driving the plot and Hayden’s story, to a rather uncertain, and very open conclusion that leaves the reader guessing and stays with you in a haunting way.

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The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes #2) by Nancy Springer

enola holmes 2.jpgTitle: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes #2)

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

Sherlock Holmes’s sister, Enola, is back on another case! Enola Holmes is being hunted by the world’s most famous detective – her own brother, Sherlock Holmes. But while she is on the run in the world’s biggest, darkest, dirtiest city, she discovers a hidden cache of charcoal drawings and feels as if she is a soul mate to the girl who drew them. But that girl, Lady Cecily, has disappeared without a trace. Braving the midnight streets, Enola must unravel the clues to find this left-handed lady, but in order to save her, Enola risks revealing more than she should. Will she be able to keep her identity a secret and find Lady Cecily, or will the one thing she is trying to save – her freedom – be lost forever?

Author bio:

Nancy Springer has published forty novels for adults, young adults and children. In a career beginning shortly after she graduated from Gettysburg College in 1970, Springer wrote for ten years in the imaginary realms of mythological fantasy, then ventured on to contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and women’s fiction and suspense before turning her attention to children’s literature. Her novels and stories for middle-grade and young adults range from contemporary realism, mystery/crime, and fantasy to her critically acclaimed novels based on the Arthurian mythos, I Am Mordred: A Tale of Camelot and I Am Morgan Le Fay. Springer’s children’s books have won her two Edgar Allan Poe awards, a Carolyn W. Field award, various Children’s Choice honours and numerous ALA Best Book listings. Her most recent series include the Tales of Rowan Hood, featuring Robin Hood’s daughter, and the Enola Holmes mysteries, starring the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes.

~*~

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady is the second in the Enola Holmes series, picking up shortly after the end of the first novel, where Enola has managed to evade Sherlock and Mycroft, and the boarding school they wish to send her to. During her escapades as Ivy Meshle, and under other identities she has crafted for herself using the ciphers her mother left her, Enola, along with her new friend, Joddy, as she hides in London, quite under the nose of Sherlock, and uses tricks he knows against him.

Whilst hiding, she discovers a cache of charcoal drawings, that lead her to a new case – a missing girl named Lady Cecily whom she feels a connection with – but what is that connection? Is it merely the art that connects them, or is there more? As Enola investigates Lady Cecily’s disappearance, clues as to who Lady Cecily is are beginning to fall into place, and Enola discovers that Lady Cecily is left-handed – and begins to ponder the lady’s mysterious disappearance as she wanders the streets in disguise. To find the missing Lady Cecily though, Enola risks revealing who she is, and where she is to her brothers.

In the second instalment of this series, the mystery is just as intriguing, and engaging as the first. I enjoyed that the thread of Enola evading her brothers was continued through, and it would be very fun and interesting to see Enola and Sherlock working together. For now, their mental sparring will have to suffice, with ciphers and codes and games to draw each other out and into the open as Enola works to solve cases on her own, in a world where it is not expected that she should, would or even could do so.  Enola is smart, determined and sneaky – everything you’d expect a sister of Sherlock Holmes to be, in a world where other things were expected of her, yet she flouted them.

These books are exciting because they reveal insight into the Victorian world, and its class and gender divisions specifically, with the backdrop of the dark streets of London traversed by Jack the Ripper, and other nefarious people. They explore the expectations of gender and through Enola, turn these around and become a heroine that girls can aspire to be and look up to. She is a remarkable character with guts and a willingness to do whatever it takes to solve the cases.

I look forward to the next books in the series.

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