Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, MinaLima Design (Illustrator)

alice in wonderlandTitle: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Author: Lewis Carroll, MinaLima Design (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 21/10/2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 320

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic stories are reimagined in this deluxe illustrated gift edition from the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise, MinaLima-designed with stunning full colour artwork and several interactive features.

Originally published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s exquisite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass have remained revered classics for generations. The story of Alice, an inquisitive heroine who falls through a rabbit hole and into a whimsical world, has captured the hearts of readers of all ages. Perhaps the most popular female character in English literature, Alice is accompanied on her journey of trials and tribulations by the frantic White Rabbit, the demented and terrifying Queen of Hearts, the intriguing Mad Hatter, and many other eccentric characters.

Lewis Carroll’s beloved companion stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are reinvented on one volume by the talented design firm MinaLima, whose fey drawings of some of Western literature’s most famous characters will delight and enthrall, In addition, they have created interactive features exclusive to this edition, including:

  • Alice with extendable legs and arms
  • The rabbit’s house which opens to reveal a giant Alice
  • The Cheshire cat with a pull tab that removes the cat and leaves the cat’s grin
  • A flamingo croquet club that swings to hit the hedgehog
  • A removable map of the Looking Glass world

This keepsake illustrated edition-the sixth book in Harper Design’s series of illustrated children’s classics-will be treasured by for years to come.

~*~

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have been enjoyed by readers all over the world since their publication in 1865 and 1871 respectively, and began what is now known as the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, where books for children moved away from didactic religious and educational tracts, and into a world of fantasy and imagination, of nonsense and fairies, and characters who did the most unimaginable things as they moved between the real world and worlds of fantasy and imagination, doing things they’d never have done prior to Alice entering the world.

Originally, the first time Alice was published, Sir John Tenniel illustrated the books, and these will always be my favourite illustrations for this book – so far, no others have come close. These are the ones cemented in my imagination. However, the MinaLima Design book is exquisite and fun – its interactivity and bright colours make the story just as engaging as the Tenniel illustrations and for me, come a very close second in my favourite depictions of Alice. Whilst there is a whimsy in the Tenniel ones, these ones have a bigger sense of the nonsensical aspect of Wonderland, and what it brings to the world of children’s literature.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two books that have been loved for over a hundred years, never out of publication, and loved for many reasons. It is their nonsensical nature that is appealing, as it draws the reader into a world where anything can happen, and where nothing makes sense, even as Alice tries to make sense of it. Things get more and more ridiculous as time passes, and as she meets each character from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter and the chess game in Through the Looking Glass.

Where most editions have standard illustrations – either in black and white or colour, depending on who the illustrator or illustrators are – this edition has colourful illustrations on each page, as well as interactive elements – a growing Alice, maps, a Humpty Dumpty that can be revealed by sliding a tab, and many more that make reading this edition a bigger adventure than reading any other edition. It makes it fun, and I admit that I did savour this edition for this reason – so I could enjoy every aspect of it, whereas reading my original Tenniel illustrated one would be devoured within a couple of days.

This is perfect for all ages – to be read to, or read alone, and to share with people of all ages this Christmas and beyond. This is a story that has a special place in the history and creation of the world of Children’s Literature, and is one I could probably write an essay on. I loved this edition and these MinaLima editions are beautiful.

 

Gom’s Gold by S.L. Mills

goms gold Title: Gom’s Gold

Author: S.L. Mills

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Stem Enterprises/self-published

Published: 7th December 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 228

Price: $20.00

Synopsis: A fairytale castle surrounded by rainbows stands high on a plateau in Australia’s Blue Mountains.

Inhabited by a strange boy with a pet magpie and a grumpy old man, it is just too much for orphaned twins Jolie and Joey to resist.

Despite warnings from the townsfolk of Wattle Gum, they venture across the castle’s threshold and quickly unravel its mysteries.

But sinister forces soon separate the twins and they must battle powerful enemies to reunite and save their world.

GOM’s Gold is a story about belonging, about outsiders seeking a place of their own.

It is a story about the human desire to chase rainbows, and about discovering that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is really the power you hold within.

~*~

Joey and Jolie have been living with foster families ever since they were orphaned at a young age. At twelve, they find themselves living with a new foster family in the New South Wales Blue Mountains. While at school, they meet Peabody, who is just as much an outsider as them. One day they see a rainbow and a castle that nobody else can see – and from there, their journey begins as they follow the rainbow, and stumble across GOM and his gold – and a castle filled with Druids, dragons and Arthur – whom appears to be inspired by King Arthur – who are trying to protect the gold and world of the Druids from an enemy known as the Seamstress. As Joey and Jo help GOM and his friends fight the Seamstress, they discover more about themselves and their abilities than they had ever known, and some to discover that sometimes, where you belong is the least likely of places.

2019 BadgeIt is very rare to see any fantasy stories set in Australia itself – this is perhaps the first I have read that has actually been set in Australia, however, I have read many by Australian authors set in a multitude of fantasy worlds. Here though, is one that combines Australia, the modern day and various mythical and legendary traditions, such as Chinese dragons, Irish mythology, Druids and Arthurian legends with two children and a unique take on all that has come before to create a unique Australian fantasy story, with diverse characters from various myth cycles and stories from well-known traditions.

Here, the recognisable elements of fantasy can be seen in many ways and are married to the natural environment of the Blue Mountains. The narrative is told primarily in first person, with the chapters alternating between Joey and Jolie’s perspectives. In doing so, each twin is given a voice and we are given an insight into who they are as individuals as well as a pair, and how different situations affect them and how they respond in different ways.

This is a great stand-alone novel for those aged twelve and over, that will appeal to many readers, as it has a sense of adventure, magic and combines fantasy, technology and the natural world and a diverse cast of characters to create a uniquely Australian fantasy story that I am sure will be enjoyed by many.

Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth

battle of the heroesTitle: Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published:  1st September 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 188

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Do not lose faith. Remember the words of the story, remember the words of the spell…

Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have defeated the black witch Githa and found the last crucial piece of the prophecy — the sea serpent’s scale.

Back now at Wolfhaven, they search desperately through the castle crypts for the sleeping heroes, who they hope will save them all … before the dark moon rises and they lose everything.

~*~

In the final book of the series, Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian head back to Wolfhaven Castle with the unicorn horn, the griffin feather, the dragon’s tooth and the sea serpent scale to awaken the sleeping heroes and save those trapped in Wolfhaven. Thinking they have tricked sister witches – Lady Mortlake and Mistress Mauldred, the four children seek to infiltrate the castle. Yet those they seek to destroy are waiting for them, and with only twelve hours to save those trapped in Wolfhaven, they must work quickly and use all their wits and trickery to achieve their goal. But will it be too late, or will Wolfhaven Castle

2019 BadgeAs the fairy tale quest concludes, each of the four heroes has grown across the series, with Elanor becoming feistier as each book has gone on – which helps her when she faces Mistress Mauldred and helps her friends fight off those who wish to harm them. As the fairy tale quest comes to an end, with a happily ever after and the friends feeling at home with each other and hopefully, their new skills and roles in life, and the series ends wonderfully, with the quest wrapped up delightfully, but a feeling of challenges still ahead. But perhaps these challenges will be of a different kind for these friends.

Having read a lot of Kate Forsyth’s books now, I believe of the ones I own, I only have two or three that I need to read for the first time. The rest will be re-read at some stage as well, and now, with each book I am noticing the fairy tale motifs more and more and the way each motif brings something unique to the book, whether it is for children, young adults or adults. I have loved Kate’s stories for years, and I look forward to each new release from her eagerly.

Winding up a series is always bittersweet – you want it to go on, and to know what happens after the last page has been turned – where do they go to from here, what happens to your favourite character? Yet at the same time, ending it on a high note, where everyone finds a way to fit in with what has happened, and their world, and where it feels right for the characters is enjoyable and brings a sense of completion to the world you’ve been inhabiting for so many books. I can go back and read them again or imagine their lives beyond the page, and know they are happy, and their world has been set right.

Another excellent series from Kate Forsyth for all ages!

 

The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth

blackmoor bogTitle: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st February 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: After escaping the bog-men in the wilds of the Witchwood, Sebastian, Quinn, Elanor and Tom journey south on their impossible quest. Sebastian and Elanor seek help from Crowthorne Castle, but both allies and enemies will reveal themselves. Tom and Quinn venture into the mysterious moors … where a hideous beast lies in waiting. Best-selling, award-winning storyteller Kate Forsyth weaves battles, beasts and bravery in this epic new five-book series.

~*~

Quinn and her friends are venturing in search of the third beast – the dragon and the dragon scale. To find it, they separate – Quinn and Tom into the mysterious moors as they are drawn into more danger, and Elanor and Sebastian head to Crowthorne Castle, hoping for help from Lady Ravenna. Yet in both places, the friends will encounter allies and enemies – and begin to find out who and what is behind the dark spell that has been cast over Wolfhaven Castle and its inhabitants, and Elanor’s father. Here, they will find out about the beast in the moors and be thrust into danger that will lead them to discoveries they never thought they’d find on their journey.

The midway point in the series sees our heroes temporarily separated for a while each pair tackles the next part of their journey in unique ways.  In this installment, the heroes are in search of the dragon scale for the spell to awaken the sleeping heroes of the prophecy they are following so they can save Wolfhaven.

The fairy tale archetypes and tropes are still there, especially the beasts and the quest, and the magic that unites them and helps them find a way around challenges they face. As dangers grow, so does the tension, and conflict, which will only bring the quartet closer as they discover that for now, they cannot trust anyone else except each other.

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I am loving this series and polishing it off very quickly. It is filled with adventure and conflict, and friendship, and the power of friendship. It truly is a delightful series, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. Aimed at readers aged between eight and ten, I believe it is a good read for many age groups and audiences.

Each character is unique and flawed, and relatable in many ways. They fulfil the fairy tale archetypes, but at the same time, are unique, and very different from the characters of fairy tale traditions, and have many more complexities behind them than usually might be found in fairy tales, depending on which version of the fairy tale you read, and how close to the original it is.

I am now reading book five, and the series is heading towards its ending. Next, I am going to review book four, and as each book builds on each other, the series is growing and building on the previous books, and creating a world that is tight, cleverly created whilst still a bit scary, but also, somewhere that I am sure, by the end of the series, will be light and fun again, as it was before the Mortlakes took over.

The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth

starkin crown.jpgTitle: The Starkin Crown

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Published: 1st May 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 285

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: Last, the smallest and the greatest…
Though he must be lost before he can find,
Though, before he sees, he must be blind,
If he can find and if he can see,
The true king of all he shall be.

Prince Peregrine, rightful heir to the starkin and wildkin crowns, longs for adventure. But Vernisha the Vile, who seized the starkin throne, seeks to destroy Peregrine, his family, and all the wildkin of Ziva.

With Stormlinn Castle under attack, Peregrine flees with his best friend, Jack, and Lady Grizelda – a starkin girl. Together they seek the Spear of the Storm King – the long-lost weapon which, it is prophesied, will destroy the starkin throne.

But a hunter is on their tail and someone close doesn’t want them to succeed…

~*~

In the twenty-five years since the events of The Wildkin’s Curse, the true prince, who has starkin, hearthkin and wildkin blood, Peregrine, has been born. He has spent his life going between Stormlinn and the home of Briony, the Erlrune. Vernisha the Vile has seized the throne and driven our heroic families from the trilogy away, sending them into hiding and fighting battles as they try to reclaim the throne, and as Vernisha tries to destroy them.

As Yule celebrations begin, Peregrine’s parents – Liliana and Merry – send him off to the Erlrune with his squire, Jack, and the starkin girl who says she has come to warn them of impending invasion, Lady Grizelda. However, they are led upon another path by Stiga to find the Spear of the Storm King – and are pursued by Vernisha’s army along the way. As betrayal hangs in the air, Peregrine and his companions’ journey into unknown areas of Ziva to restore order to their world.

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In the conclusion to the Estelliana Chronicles, the third child of the prophecy, Peregrine takes centre stage as he seeks to help his family.  The final two books in this trilogy are recent acquisitions and this is the first time I had read them both, yet the first, The Starthorn Tree, was the very first Kate Forsyth book I ever bought and read, drawn to the flying horse on the cover. So when I discovered years later that there were two follow up books, I got them as I found them, and have been meaning to read them for ages – and since reorganising my shelves, I have found them all and been able to read them all together. And I have thoroughly enjoyed them, and the world they create.

As in many of her books, there are fairy tale motifs of princesses in towers, prisoners in towers, and prophecies and spells that lead to a satisfying conclusion as the heroes go on their journeys and quests to save the kingdom. Each book is unique and special and has something delightful about it. In this one, we have one companion who is not what they seem, as seeds of mistrust are planted early on. These seeds simmer throughout the week and a half long journey of the novel, coming to a head towards the end, when the prophecy begins to reveal its answers.

Throughout the journey, Peregrine, Jack and Grizelda face many challenges – and questioning of loyalties is threaded throughout the book. Who is loyal, and who is not? What does Grizelda want, and why has she suddenly appeared? These, and many more questions are constantly at play, as our heroes seek to save their home and unite the land of Ziva.

What I loved about this book was that it combined adventure, danger and wonder to conclude the story and unite the starkin, hearthkin and wildkin – a goal that began back in The Starthorn Tree with Mags, Briony, Lisandre, Pedrin and Durrik as they sought to save Lord Zygmunt from a strange, cursed sleep. From here, the journey to reunite the land under one who has the blood of starkin, hearthkin and wildkin has enthralled me, and I have wanted to see how it concludes, and where it takes the readers and characters.

I am so glad I was finally able to get to these books – there are very few Kate Forsyth books I have read now and am keen to get to the ones I still need to read, as well as read a few favourites again. I am also looking forward to more books from Kate in the coming years, as she continues to be one of my favourite Australian authors.

The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley

the monster who wasn't.jpgTitle: The Monster Who Wasn’t

Author: T.C. Shelley

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 8th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:A brilliantly rich and strange fantasy adventure that will make us all believe in monsters  be they good, bad or somewhere in between.

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being 

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits.

But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass …

~*~

We all know where fairies come from. J.M. Barrie taught us this in Peter Pan – that the laugh of the first baby broke into a thousand pieces, and that was where fairies started. Each new baby laugh is a fairy. Yet little is known of the world of monsters, and where they come from. Using a mix of traditions, myths, fairy and folk tales, though concentrated on the European or Anglo-Celtic traditions, T.C. Shelley explores this in her debut novel, The Monster Who Wasn’t.

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In The Monster Who Wasn’t, it is established that a monster is born of a last sigh of someone, a stark contrast to the birth of a fairy. But what happens when a first laugh and last sigh come together? This is the premise for the main character, Imp, who later becomes known as Sam. He was born in the monster world but has all the features of a human: belly button, gender, heart. But does he have a soul, and where does he truly fit? In the human world, where the gargoyles who adopt him send him to find chocolate.

It is here he finds out he bears a remarkable resemblance to the Kavanaugh family, who take him in, yet when the ogre, Thunderguts finds out his plan for Imp could be thwarted, he will take drastic measures. Throughout the story, told through Imp’s eyes, the collision of worlds feels inevitable as you read on.

It is engaging and fun, seeing how Imp finds his way in the human world and how the gargoyles, grumpy as they are, will do anything to help him, as will an angel, Daniel. The gargoyles are monsters who are neither good nor evil, rather they are a kind of chaotic, neutral force who have a sense of what family is and help Imp in the final chapters of the story.

A fun and engaging fantasy novel for all ages, and that brings together fairy tales and modern fantasy in a fun and exciting way to appeal to readers of all ages. It is one that is delightful as a standalone yet could also potentially become a series. Whichever way T.C. Shelley goes, I very much enjoyed this novel.

The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins

the silver well.jpegTitle: The Silver Well

Author: Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins

Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories/Fantasy

Publisher: Ticonderoga Press

Published: 22nd November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 263

Price: $30.00

Synopsis: The Silver Well marks a milestone achievement for two best-selling legends of Australian fantasy, having both published their first novels in 1997. Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have teamed up in this collection of 7 incredible stories, all original and never-before published.

One English village. Two thousand years of stories.
People have always come to make wishes at the Silver Well: in Pagan times and Christian, during revolution and war. When Rosie arrives in the tiny village of Cerne Abbas with a broken heart, she becomes connected across the centuries with others who have yearned for something. Seven stories, set in seven time periods, reveal the deepest longings of the human heart.

  • Prologue – The Wishing Tree
  • The Blessing
  • My Sister’s Ghost
  • The True Confession of Obedience-to-God Ashe
  • The Cunning Woman’s Daughter
  • The End of Everything
  • The Giant
  • Epilogue – The Past is Not Dead

“One tale at a time, Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins immerse us in the fabled waters of Cerne Abbas, plunging us deeper and deeper into the lore of this village, further and further into its past. Here we meet a cast of characters whose lives span two millennia–charming artists and shopkeepers, forsaken lovers, cunning-women, severe Puritans, proud warriors, shell-shocked soldiers, bereft parents, fierce and fragile children, and many generations of Brightwells. Across the ages we hear their carefully hidden thoughts. Their worries and fears. Their hopes and losses.” — From the introduction by Lisa L. Hannett

~*~

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In 2017, Rosie Brightwell arrives in Cerne Abbas following being left at the altar. Here, she meets Isobel at the markets, and a young man, who begins to tell her a series of stories going back through the years and centuries, back two thousand years, going backwards in time from the Second World War to 44 AD, all centred around the same village and well.

Each story is linked by the village, the well, and the women of the Brightwell family. From artists, to warriors, shopkeepers, and lovers. To a Puritanical story where the family is hauled into the world of the witch trials. Throughout the stories, the village grows, but as they cleverly move backwards throughout time, it feels like as a reader, you are an archaeologist, peeling back the layers of time, century by century, and across one thousand years. It is as though with each layer of the archaeological site, such as at Knossos or Troy, new secrets are revealed and linked to what is already known, until the origins look as though they might be discovered, and they are each told in first person as the ancestors and layers are uncovered and revealed, and Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have brilliantly crafted this selection of short stories, invoking history, magic and fantasy, linked together by one family, and it is Rosie’s opening and concluding stories that connect the centuries and years together, solving a mystery she never thought she had as she talks with the mysterious young man who tells her about the Brightwell family.

The one story not told from a female perspective, but still linking the village of Cerne Abbas with the other stories is My Sister’s Ghost, narrated by Joseph. This one is a little less clear on the Brightwell connection, but it is still there, in the background as Rosie digs and finds out about the village. My Sister’s Ghost has a larger paranormal element than the other stories and revolves around a family tragedy that eventually connects to the Brightwells, but in a less obvious way than the other stories. Nonetheless, they are all connected by people and place, and this is what makes them work together as each historical layer is revealed, as though through a time machine or archaeological dig.

This is Kate Forsyth’s fortieth book, and the thirtieth book for Kim Wilkins. I’m more familiar with Kate’s work, but the seamlessness of the stories shows that Kate and Kim work well together and have carefully crafted each story so they not only flow into and towards each other but are also their own worlds and stories within a larger one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the magic within the stories. It is a wonderful addition to my Kate Forsyth collection, and one that I definitely hope to revisit sometime.