The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley

the wild way homeTitle: The Wild Way Home
Author: Sophie Kirtley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Slip
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 15th September 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there?

What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.

Fans of Piers Torday and Stig of the Dump will love this wild, wise and heartfelt debut adventure.

~*~

Every so often, a book comes my way that has an intriguing and mesmerising cover, that invites you to dive in and enter the world within the covers. Sometimes these are books that must be savoured, and other times, the story just pulls you along for the journey, and before you know it, you’ve read the entire thing in one sitting. The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley is one of those books that will fit into both categories – to be savoured, yet also one of those books that can be devoured.

Charlie’s brother Dara is born with a serious heart condition, and Charlie runs, afraid of what is going to happen. He ends up in the forest near his home, yet it is vastly different to what he knows – no path, no access to the road, and a young boy dressed in animal skins is lying near the river. Charlie soon works out he has been transported to the Stone Age. Lost and alone, he helps Harby, the boy he tries to help, find his family and baby sister, facing unknown dangers along the way as he tries to get home to his time and his family.

Sophie Kirtley’s first novel is a historical fiction time slip with a difference – not many time slip books are set in prehistoric times like the Stone Age, and this is what makes it stand out. Where most timeslip books explore the difference in dress or how characters understand the world, this one takes it a step further, throwing in a language barrier – the language of Stone Age people, and the English that Charlie knows in 2020. It presents challenges at first as Charlie and Harby get to know each other and find a way to communicate so they can help each other ‘make safe’, as Harby puts it.

It is an adventure as well, and the world is showcased in a clear and concise way that builds a mental image for the reader – and contrasts the Stone Age of Harby with the 2020 world that Charlie lives in, through Charlie’s comparisons of the two and how he identifies areas – the names he knows them as. It also touches on what they mean to Harby and Charlie – but mostly Charlie as the story is told through his eyes and perspective as he navigates this strange world and his journey home to his family.

At its heart, this book is about family and friendship, and the love of family and friends, and the support we need in hard times. It looks at the fight or flight response in the face of something unbearable and something that cannot be controlled, and the differing responses we have and how far we will go to be with those we love. It is a wonderful, and touching debut that has the power to inspire and comfort – showing that in thousands of years of humanity, the desire to protect one’s family has never really left us. Middle grade readers and above will enjoy this story.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

piranesiTitle: Piranesi
Author: Susanna Clarke
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 15th September 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Price: $27.99
Synopsis: The long-awaited return from the author of the multi-million copy bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has?

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell transported over four million readers into its mysterious world. It became an instant classic and has been hailed as one of the finest works of fiction of the twenty-first century.

Fifteen years later, it is finally time to enter the House and meet Piranesi.

May your Paths be safe, your Floors unbroken and may the House fill your eyes with Beauty.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the cloud

~*~

Piranesi loves in a House in another World, writing in his diary, marking the time in an unusual way. He does not know what day, month or year it is, and we are given few hints at first as to why he is there. Piranesi is visited by the Other every so often, yet as the story unfolds and Piranesi uncovers the truth, the narrative moves in and out of the fantasy world we first meet Piranesi in, and our world.

Two worlds, one we know, and one we don’t, come together to create an unusual story that must be read in a linear way–I found that this ensured it made the most sense, and worked the best. From page one, you need to pay attention, as clues are slowly revealed through each entry.

It is a mix of reality and magical realism, with a hint at the world of antiquity and Ancient Greece. The descriptions of the world Piranesi lives in at the beginning of the book make it feel like the ancient world, until something hints at it being in the contemporary world. This gives it a sense of mythology as well.

The mix of reality, magical realism and a sense of mythology and the oral tradition gives Susanna’s new novel that sense of whimsy and intrigue needed to explore Piranesi’s journey that begins with a sense of isolation–something we are all feeling to differing degrees during this pandemic.

This is an unusual novel, quite literary but that’s why it works. Going in without knowing what is to come is disorienting and confusing yet it cleverly brings the reader around to the way the characters think and act, creating a unique world that sometimes leaves you with more questions than answers. Perhaps this is what makes it work. We don’t need to know all the answers, and Piranesi could be said to be an unreliable narrator–we’re never clear on whether we can believe him or not. His journey informs the narrative, and allows us to explore a world we may never experience ourselves, but that is extraordinary in its own way.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser by Kate Bailey

alice curiouser and curiouserTitle: Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser
Author: Kate Bailey
Genre: Non-Fiction/Exhibition Guide
Publisher: V&A Publications
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Price: $79.99
Synopsis: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon. First published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal for both adults and children?

This book explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance from the nineteenth century to today. It shows how Alice has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by each new generation: from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s latest interpretation.

This beautiful, playful publication also includes specially commissioned interactive illustrations by award-winning artist Kristjana S. Williams, as well as quotes from an array of cultural creators from Stephen Fry to Tim Walker, Ralph Steadman to Little Simz about the profound influence of Alice on their work.

~*~

Ever since the 1860s, Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice stories – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its follow-up, Alice Through the Looking Glass, have captured the imaginations of readers and artists for over one hundred and fifty years. Originally told in episodic form, the Alice stories have been recreated in art, in writing, in movies and performance for as long as the books have been around, and as this study into the reception and retellings of Alice discusses, Lewis Carroll was not averse to these retellings, yet perhaps one of the things that can trip up those reimagining the stories is the episodic format, and how to make these flow into a singular narrative, or how to translate a story based around word usage into a performance like ballet that doesn’t use speech, but movement, to tell the story.

Alice has been part of the world collective consciousness for almost one hundred and sixty years, and there are many aspects that we know intrinsically: Wonderland, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter – they all evoke an image for us – whether it is the Tenniel illustrations, the 1951 Disney animation and beyond – there is always something in our zeitgeist or knowledge that harkens back to Alice.

As this exhibition guide does, it tells us of the origins of Alice – stories that Lewis Carroll – Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – told to the Liddell girls on an afternoon boating trip while he taught at Oxford. These stories are full of nonsense, and the retellings work to use those aspects to their fullest extent.

The exhibition guide for Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser was set for the exhibition’s June 2020 to January 2021, however a quick perusal of the Victoria and Albert Museum website shows that the exhibition has been moved to 2021 due to the pandemic. But for those of us who cannot get to exhibit, this book offers access to the items on display – the new illustrations, the various interpretations and advertising, performances and fashion, and everything in between. It evokes a sense of wonder, and the nonsense that Lewis Carroll created, and that began the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, which saw a move away from the didactic nature of children’s books until the publication of the Alice books, which then saw a move into other well-known works.

The legacy of the Alice stories is also touched on, and how this has impacted the Liddell family. There are many facets to this story, and this exhibition and the accompanying guide bring some of the endearing and enduring aspects of Alice to life, and a quick Google search shows the many books surrounding Alice, Lewis Carroll and the multitude of editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, some of them coming out to coincide with the significant anniversaries over the past few years, and examining a variety of aspects of the legacy of Alice. This is one example of how Alice in Wonderland has become one of the most well-known works, never out of print since publication and a work that has inspired many interpretations and creations, and if travel were possible or if I lived in London, this would be an exhibit I would love to attend. I will settle for the exhibition guide, as it allows me to explore the story and exhibits from the comfort of my own home amidst a pandemic. It is a book to be treasured and revisited, to be dipped in and out of, or explored cover to cover. It combines the scholarly investigation, and the history of Alice, Lewis Carroll, and its journey of interpretations with the nonsensical and whimsical feel of the original and the way it has been interpreted. An excellent addition for fans of Alice in Wonderland. I loved this book, and will be revisiting it.

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup

death by shakespeareTitle: Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts
Author: Kathryn Harkup
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: William Shakespeare found dozens of different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions – shock, sadness, fear – that they did more than 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the knowledge to back them up?

In the Bard’s day death was a part of everyday life. Plague, pestilence and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theatre were high. It was also a time of important scientific progress. Shakespeare kept pace with anatomical and medical advances, and he included the latest scientific discoveries in his work, from blood circulation to treatments for syphilis. He certainly didn’t shy away from portraying the reality of death on stage, from the brutal to the mundane, and the spectacular to the silly.

Elizabethan London provides the backdrop for Death by Shakespeare, as Kathryn Harkup turns her discerning scientific eye to the Bard and the varied and creative ways his characters die. Was death by snakebite as serene as Shakespeare makes out? Could lack of sleep have killed Lady Macbeth? Can you really murder someone by pouring poison in their ear? Kathryn investigates what actual events may have inspired Shakespeare, what the accepted scientific knowledge of the time was, and how Elizabethan audiences would have responded to these death scenes. Death by Shakespeare will tell you all this and more in a rollercoaster of Elizabethan carnage, poison, swordplay and bloodshed, with an occasional death by bear-mauling for good measure.
~*~

Shakespeare probably has the most deaths of any author – over 250, as Kathryn Harkup states – at least the in-play ones whether they happen onstage or offstage behind the scenes or between scenes. In Death by Shakespeare, using history, science and the brad’s own plays, Harkup looks at the various ways the characters died, and the creative licence Shakespeare took with some of them in light of what he was likely to have known when he was writing, and what we know now of poisons and physiology.

With each method of death, Kathryn illustrates how it played out in the text of the play and how actors in the plays, especially in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, portrayed these deaths to avoid harm to them but make it look realistic for the play and the audience. It is filled with incredible attention to detail in this way, and in the way that the plague years affected Shakespeare and his writing, and the always present spectre of death that was around his life in an ever-present way. Much like our current situation with COVID-19, the plague years throughout Shakespeare’s life shut everything down and this was when Shakespeare would write some of his works. It touched him personally too – killing his eleven-year-old son, Hamnet.

The book divides each method into its own chapter, with an appendix that divides Shakespeare’s works into Comedies, Histories, Tragedies and Poems and outlines who died and how into tables – a good quick reference. In looking at the deaths, and how likely they would have been, or how they might have been, or should have been, executed, Kathryn Harkup has pulled so many things together to create an informative and intriguing book, on deaths and how realistic they are. The plays will be enriched by this knowledge and give depth to further discussion and analysis and interpretations. It was a fascinating read that gave the literary, historical and scientific aspects equal weighting, and made it easy to understand for all readers. I came to this book from a historical and literary stance but found that the author explained the scientific information in an easy to access and understand way. It is also good as a reference for writers in their own writing, and filled with random facts that might be useful for a trivia night – if you can remember them all!

Kid Normal and the Final Five by Greg James and Chris Smith

Kid NornalTitle: Kid Normal and the Final Five

Author: Greg James and Chris Smith

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 2nd June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $12.99
Synopsis: The epic conclusion to the awesome, award-winning, bestselling, super-charged KID NORMAL series by Greg James and Chris Smith.

Praise for Kid Normal:

‘So funny, it’s almost criminal’ INDEPENDENT
‘Outrageous capers’ GUARDIAN

Murph Cooper is famous … and he’s not happy about it.

Kid Normal and the Super Zeroes used to save the day in secret. But suddenly everyone knows who they are.

Oily villain Nicholas Knox has told the public that superheroes are dangerous. He wants to lock them all up and take over the world! *Cue evil cackling*

Murph must expose Knox’s evil plan, or the world of heroes is doomed forever!

~*~

Kid Normal is one of the Super Zeroes at a school for superheroes, referred to as The School. But when the villainous Nicholas Knox and his cronies, including Kopy Kat, start to tell the public the superheroes are dangerous, his plan to take over the world begins. He manages to make everyone believe the dangers of the superheroes so he can move forward in his plans – but Murph and his friends must band together – the final five – to expose the evil plan – and save the world of heroes.

The first I heard about Kid Normal was when it appeared in a publicity catalogue, and I requested it for review. It was the final book in the series, so I wasn’t sure how I’d go as someone who prefers to start a series at the beginning. However, there have been times as a reviewer and as a quiz writer when I have reads books at various points throughout a series, so this was something I saw as a challenge – could I understand the world and jokes that cropped up without having read the first three books?

The answer is yes, of course I could.

This series is written by Greg and Chris in a way that necessary information is repeated, to refresh readers and capture the attention of new readers. Each character is cleverly formed and named in unique stylings that hint at superhero and villain tropes, and at times, what the character’s Capability is. This is a lot of fun for kids, and language nerds like me who enjoy seeing play on words in novels and books for all ages.

Illustrations and little authorial intrusions are interspersed throughout the novel and series, where the authors talk to the audience, a device known as breaking the fourth wall, and when used effectively, as it has been here, it flow seamlessly with the story and adds to the fun, humour created by the writing team. You can hear the voices and chuckles of the authors – they must have had grand un writing this series!

As this is the last book, we know there is some kind of ending to the world of superheroes coming – but what will it be? How will Murph and his friends save the world? The authors will definitely have you on the edge of your seat as they poke fun at politician-style characters using well-written satire and amusing names, giving kids an insight into the complexities of how the outside world works at a level that they can access and find amusing. Some of the humour is slapstick – though not violent and would be appealing to readers who enjoy that kind of humour. As a whole, humour is used in a way that there is something for all readers within this book.

More than humour though, it has heart. It shows that not all heroes wear capes, that friends and family can stick together and what it means to stand by someone who needs it. The characters are diverse in many ways, and this adds to the richness of the novel and series.

This is a humorous and delightful conclusion to what must have been a very fun series to write and read.

 

The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley

the austen girlsTitle: The Austen Girls
Author: Lucy Worsley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Published: 19th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Would she ever find a real-life husband? Would she even find a partner to dance with at tonight’s ball? She just didn’t know.

Anna Austen has always been told she must marry rich. Her future depends upon it. While her dear cousin Fanny has a little more choice, she too is under pressure to find a suitor.

But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing?

The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?

In this witty, sparkling novel of choices, popular historian LUCY WORSLEY brings alive the delightful life of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before.

~*~

Everyone knows Jane Austen’s books – the most famous of which are probably Emma and Pride and Prejudice, and there are many retellings, and many books both fictional and non-fiction that feature or are about Jane Austen in some way. But Lucy Worsley has taken Jane Austen’s nieces – Fanny and Anna – and told their story, which involves Jane in a new and interesting way.

Set in 1809, it is time for cousins Anna and Fanny to enter society and begin the search for a husband – as society dictates for young ladies at the time. For Anna, marrying rich is a must – there is pressure from her family to make the right match and for the right reasons. Her cousin, Fanny, has a little more choice, yet, both are under extreme pressure to marry from their parents, but Aunt Jane is always there to offer advice, help and reassurance for everything.

Lucy Worsley has a talent for taking the stories of women in history and giving them a voice, and an identity beyond being daughters and wives.

Her previous three novels have focused on royal houses – here, Lucy explores the early nineteenth century and Jane Austen’s life. It is fresh and fun – as readers, we get to see Jane as more than just an author. As an aunt, a sister and a daughter. It is an example of how historical fiction about someone’s life, where what we know is filled in with the possibilities of what could have happened, and extrapolations of events based on the names, dates and facts available. Lucy has used these basic facts to bring history to life for her readers, in a way that is informative, accessible and entertaining. Told through the eyes of the younger girls, Jane’s nieces, the novel illustrates societal expectations, and how even in one family, ideas of wealth and status can differ, and inform what is expected of a teenage girl. At the same time, it also explores what happens when the oldest girl in a family needs to take on certain responsibilities – and doesn’t shy away from the realities of the time, yet presents them in a way that isn’t overly confronting for readers, but also, in a way that can still be understood clearly.

I love Luc’s work – she includes all the relevant and interesting details and shows us a world that whilst very far in the past, at times, can explore universal themes, and she brings history to life for a wide audience. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

monstrous devicesTitle: The Monstrous Devices
Author: Damien Love
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Rock the Boat
Published: 19th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: A cinematic and original page-turner for fans of Indiana Jones and Alex Rider

On a winter’s day, twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. ‘This one is special,’ says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.

Things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, saving him from an attack – and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework – and plunging him into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unravelling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

With an ever-present admiration for the hidden mysteries of our world, Monstrous Devices plunges readers into a gripping adventure that’s sure to surprise.

~*~
When the robot Alexander receives a mysterious robot from his grandfather, he has no idea what is in store for him. Soon, it seems as if the robot has come to life. Soon, Alexander and his grandfather are racing through Paris and Prague as they try to solve the mystery of the robot that comes to life and does things that Alexander never thought possible, and invites danger into their lives that is at times scary, and that Alexander and his grandfather need to get out of so they can resume their daily lives.

This intriguing novel combines adventure and quest stories, with living toys, ancient myths and stories from the past about the golem, and robots in a unique way. It merges magic and reality seamlessly, and incorporates themes of science fiction and stories of how the living robot came to be, and is at times, scary or worrying, but action packed from beginning to end as they try to bring an end to an ancient family feud fuelled by macabre magic, and people who aren’t quite who they say they are.

At times, it feels apocalyptic – as though the robot and those who want it and want to control it are going to win. It feels as though it is a whole story, that the ending wraps things up nicely. Yet at the same time, there could be a sequel. The Tall Man who appears has a connection to one of the characters that is hinted at but perhaps not wholly resolved – and as the mystery of the robot unfolds, we are told along the way about Alexander’s absent father, whose non-presence in the novel shapes the characters and forms an interesting plot line that works well not being resolved – we don’t always find out everything – yet also works to hint at a sequel – either way, this plot line is woven throughout as Alexander ponders who his father is and what is going on with the robot and his grandfather.

This is a book filled with mystery and danger at every turn, as it draws on the golem legend from Jewish culture, and a Rabbi Loewy who is linked to the robot and the store it was taken from in Prague – this theft opens up the novel – where we first meet the tall man and the young girl who accompanies him. They are a constant presence in the novel – whether on the page or off the page, and their role gives the novel the scary undertones – what do these two people want, and who are they are two questions constantly at play throughout the novel.

This was a different novel for me – most of the things I read don’t have robots. It was interesting, and perhaps gives a brief look at what things could be like if robots did take over or at least, what could happen if they could read our thoughts and act of their own volition. In this way, it was a touch scary at times, yet also engrossing – to find out if Alexander and his grandfather succeed, you have to read on. It captures the imagination and once in Prague, takes the reader somewhere new and historic. It evokes a sense of history and mystery, and magic in a place that has a long and complex history within Europe in many ways – perhaps too many to list here.

This is an interesting and mysterious read for confident readers aged nine and older, and will take you on a journey you’d never expect.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling/Newt Scamander

fantastic beasts paperbackTitle: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: JK Rowling/Newt Scamander

Genre: Fantasy Text Book

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Published: 31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 160

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This glorious paperback edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is considered a classic throughout the wizarding world. It features an extraordinary array of magical creatures, from Acromantula to Yeti via ten different breeds of dragon – all beautifully illustrated in full colour by the brilliantly inventive, Greenaway Medal shortlisted Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander’s years of adventure and exploration have yielded a work of unparalleled importance, admired by scholars, devoured by young witches and wizards, and even made available to Muggles in the early years of this century. With this dazzling illustrated edition, readers can explore the magical fauna of five continents from the comfort of their own armchairs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is essential reading at Hogwarts.

Now available in a stunning paperback edition with French flaps, this edition contains all of the mesmerising illustrations from the original edition and features the fully updated 2017 text including a foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.

hplogo

~*~

Bloomsbury has released the much-loved Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a paperback using the expanded, illustrated text from the hardcover edition published in 2017. Usually, only wizards and witches have access to this book, yet now Muggles are able to read about these creatures and learn about them, even if they may not be able to see them or interact with them.

The ratings for the beasts haven’t changed – and the introduction, foreword and introductory notes are written by Newt Scamander are still included, though this time I felt with a few flourishes that make the book interactive and feel as though someone has interacted with the book.

Below are the ratings given to each beast:

X- Boring

XX – Harmless/may be domesticated

XXX – Competent wizards should cope

XXXX – Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

XXXXX – Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

One thing missing is the delightfully fun notes from Ron, Harry and Hermione from the original edition, yet this exquisite one is less a school text and more a guide for wizards at home and abroad.

I’ve written about this one a few times before, and each edition brings something new to the book and I notice something new. In this one, I spent a lot more time taking in the gorgeous colour illustrations of each beast, and the various ways they interact with their environment and wizards. It is a delightful edition, and one I am adding to my collection – I may have multiple editions of some books yet each different edition expands on the world and gives a new scope to the original series and editions. It is something I always look forward too, and with many house and new editions coming out this year, I cannot wait to see how they all come together in the series, and to share my views on how they add to the original magic for readers new and old.

I have enjoyed Harry Potter for almost twenty years – and reading it always reminds me of my best friend and her mum who introduced me to the wizarding world. It is something we will always share, and that is what makes it special to me.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

pepperharrowTitle: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Published: 17th March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 512

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Step back into the enchanting world of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This extraordinary sequel takes readers to Japan, where time, destiny and love collide to electrifying effect

‘A Japan that never was, a future lost, ghosts that are not dead, random numbers, clairvoyant samurai … not even a partial list of ingredients can do justice to this wonderful cake of a book. A lovely blending of steam punk ether science, Japanese historical figures, and a time-defying thriller’ ROBIN HOBB

For Thaniel Steepleton, an unexpected posting to Tokyo can’t come at a better moment. The London fog has made him ill and doctor’s orders are to get out.

His brief is strange: the staff at the British Legation have been seeing ghosts, and his first task is to find out what’s going on. But staying with his closest friend Keita Mori in Yokohama, Thaniel starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons he won’t say, Mori is frightened. Then he vanishes.

Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labour camp in northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori’s, must investigate.

As ghosts appear across Tokyo and the weather turns bizarrely electrical, Thaniel grows convinced that it all has something to do with Mori’s disappearance – and that Mori might be in far more trouble than any of them first thought.

~*~

In 2015, readers were introduced to Natasha Pulley, Mori and Thaniel Steepleton in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Five years later, they’re returning in the Lost Future of Pepperharrow which sees Thaniel and Mori headed to Japan with their daughter, Six, as they seek to improve Thaniel’s health during a new posting for the British Legation in Tokyo to investigate ghosts, and strange goings on at a labour camp that bring them into contact with someone from Mori’s past – Takiko Pepperharrow.

The story moves between the past – up to ten years – particularly when dealing with Takiko, and 1888/1889 – the present in the novel, and how Mori and Thaniel navigate the mysteries and ghosts of Tokyo. In doing so, Thaniel finds himself falling into an unknown world, and when Mori disappears, and nobody knows where he is nor if he is still alive. It is an intricate plot that moves back and forth over a decade in Tokyo and Japan, highlighting issues of religion, the place of foreigners in Japan and the role of ghosts and clockwork as a common thread across both books. Denser than the first book, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow continues the story in surprising and eloquent ways.

Some aspects are most definitely historical – the Japanese Education Minister, Arinori Mori’s assassination and at least one of the prisons, whilst the rest might be based on history but has become a fantastical thing of its own, and borrows from history in order to create the world these characters populate and live in. The story is complex, immense and exceptionally told with rich detail where needed, and is immersive for time and place – making each aspect feel as though you were really there in the book with Thaniel – both when he was with Mori and whilst he was searching for him through Japan.

Each setting evoked a sense of being there – from the foggy streets of London, to the ships that sail across oceans and all the sights, sounds and sensations of Tokyo – both confronting and intriguing as seen through the eyes of Thaniel and his uncertainty as he investigates the ghosts, come together to create a story filled with so many different elements, some seem so small, it can be hard to define them easily, and with hints of magical realism, this is not a straight-forward historical fiction. It is much more layered and multi-faceted than that. It has so many layers that there were times I re-read a section – just to see if I had picked everything up, only to discover that some things had merely been hinted at in a very clever way that made sense towards the end. It maintained the balance of revealing things in the right place, and dropping little hints, and also, maintained the balance of good description and storytelling – neither was overdone. For each of these aspects – all books are going to be different in what they do and why – and when these elements as well as character, plot and setting combine, they create a story like this one that is clever and unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and hope that fans of Natasha’s first two books will as well.

Cover Reveal for Quidditch Through the Ages

illustrated quidditch

As part of the new editions of the Harry Potter books, there is a new illustrated edition of Quidditch Through the Ages, with illustrations by Emily Gravett. The full press release and cover image from Bloomsbury is below.

I love the colour in this cover – the teal background, the golden lettering and the colourful images of the quaffle, the bludgers, the snitch, and a broomstick, as well as various quidditch players zooming around and team colours and emblems. It brings the book to life and it will be lovely to see what is inside.

BLOOMSBURY REVEALS COVER FOR NEW ILLUSTRATED EDITION OFQUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES

‘Oh, you wait, it’s the best game in the world.’ Ron Weasley

Bloomsbury Children’s Books has revealed the cover of the full-colour illustrated edition of J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch Through the Ages illustrated by Emily Gravett. The cover showcases some of the key elements of Harry Potter’s favourite sport – including players, team badges and a hovering Golden Snitch waiting to be caught. Devoured by Harry Potter in his first year, Quidditch Through the Ages is consulted on a daily basis by the young witches and wizards at Hogwarts, and this beautifully illustrated edition is set to become a firm favourite for readers of all ages who dream of grabbing a broomstick and taking to the skies.

Publishing in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA on 6th October 2020, Quidditch Through the Ages Illustrated Edition features showstopping artwork from Emily Gravett, twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. Emily’s wildly creative imagination has conjured a cornucopia of sporting memorabilia to surprise and delight. With some items lovingly created in a dazzling range of media and infused with her trademark visual wit, these charming and funny artworks are the perfect pairing for J.K. Rowling’s humorous insights into the magical, airborne sport.

Quidditch Through the Ages invites readers to take a whistle-stop tour through wizarding history, reliving epic matches and great moments along the way. Accessible at any point in the Harry Potter reading journey, it is packed with trivia, tales of on-pitch antics, and Quidditch stars past and present. The sports almanac also contains comprehensive profiles of teams loved by readers of the Harry Potter novels.

Quidditch Through the Ages first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After catching Harry Potter with a copy, it is also the reason that Professor Snape invents the rule that no library books are allowed outside of Hogwarts School. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone continues to mesmerise readers and, in 2019, was the number three bestselling children’s book in Australia overall and the number two children’s novel.

A percentage of proceeds from the sale of this edition will go to J.K. Rowling’s own international charity Lumos, which helps some of the world’s most vulnerable children and young people to have a better life; and to Comic Relief.

Wizarding World Digital has exclusively revealed examples of artwork from Quidditch Through the Ages Illustrated Edition. See Emily Gravett’s astonishing art at the below link.
https://www.wizardingworld.com/news/bloomsbury-reveal-cover-for-new-illustrated-edition-of-quidditch-through-the-ages