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 Drowned Kingdom (The Impossible Kingdom #4) by Kate Forsyth

the drowned kingdom.jpgTitle: The Drowned Kingdom (The Impossible Kingdom #4)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st of May 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 185
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have found a dragon and conquered the dreaded Beast of Blackmoor Bog. Only one item remains on their impossible quest – the scale of a sea-serpent. Now they must journey to the drowned kingdom, where they will face their deadliest challenge yet. And there they will uncover the truth behind all that has happened … the truth that will change everything.

~*~

Quinn received her witch’s staff in the last book – and together, with her companions and the unicorn, Quickthorn, Rex, the griffin, and Beltaine, the dragon, they set off to seek the Drowned Kingdom of legend, and find the final piece of the prophecy, the scale of a sea serpent. It seems simple, yet as they seek to find a way to get across the waters, Quinn and Tom discover secrets about Quinn’s past, about where she came from, that will lead them to unforeseen discoveries when they arrive at the Drowned Kingdom, and in their quest to save a sea serpent from being misused by Githa, the evil witch who has been trying to thwart the four heroes the whole way, alongside Lady Mortlake.

Yet more secrets are uncovered, as well as Quinn’s past – secrets about those Ela and Sebastian thought they could trust, and what the people they have left behind are faced with or have been forced to do. In the Drowned Kingdom, the four heroes face life and death, and danger at every turn. Slowly, they will come to find their way to the sea serpents – but at what cost, and will they achieve their goals?

Four books in, and each piece needed to complete the prophecy is on the way to being collected, and from there, only a few elements are needed to complete it – which will become clear in the fifth book, which I have started reading. As the quest heads into its final stages, Quinn, Elanor, Sebastian and Tom must grapple with the knowledge they’ve recently learned and how it changes things – or if it does.

2019 BadgeAs this series comes to the end, I am hoping that the heroes achieve their goals – which I am sure they will, but it is all about the journey getting there, and how Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian achieve it with the help of their beasts – a unicorn, a griffin, a dragon and a sea-serpent.

The fairy tale trope of the quest has been cleverly drawn out over the past four books, and will inevitably conclude in the fifth instalment, where they have to get back to Wolfhaven Castle and save those who are trapped by a spell there. Now that they know who is behind it, and helping Lord and Lady Mortlake, the four heroes must get into the castle, and find the heroes – but will they achieve this in the next book?

A thrilling addition to the series.

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 Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth

wildkins curseTitle: The Wildkin’s Curse

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 1st May 2010

Format: Paperback

Pages: 380

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Three times a babe shall be born,
between star-crowned and iron-bound.
First, the sower of seeds, the soothsayer,
though lame, he must travel far.
Next shall be the king-breaker, the king-maker,
Though broken himself he shall be.
Last, the smallest and the greatest –
in him, the blood of wise and wild,
farseeing ones and starseeing ones.
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.

Merry, Zed and Liliana – three children born between those of hearthkin blood and starkin blood – are on a perilous quest to the Palace of Zarissa. Amid the splendour and treachery of court, they watch and wait: planning the rescue of Princess Rozalina, held captive in the dazzling Tower of Stars.

And as their pasts and presents unfold, their destinies become clear.

The engrossing companion to The Starthorn Tree by one of Australia’s best fantasy storytellers, Kate Forsyth.

Zedrin is a starkin lord, and heir to the Castle of Estelliana.

Merry is a hearthkin boy, the son of the rebel leader.

Liliana is a wildkin girl, with uncanny magical powers.

They must journey on a secret mission to rescue a wildkin princess from her imprisonment in a crystal tower. Princess Rozalina has the power to enchant with words – she can conjure up a plague of rats or wish the dead out of their graves. When she casts a curse, it has such power it will change her world forever. Set in a world of monsters and magical creatures, valiant heroes and wicked villains, The Wildkin’s Curse is a tale of high adventure and true love.

~*~

Sixteen years after The Starthorn Tree, Merry and Zed are fulfilling their parents’ promise – they have gone to live with Briony the Erlrune. Here, they meet Liliana, a wildkin girl who hates the starkin but is forced to work with Zed and Merry on a secret mission – they must collect seven feathers from seven birds to break a curse and save Princess Rozalina – doing so will set their land on a path to peace once the blood of the starkin, hearthkin and wildkin are united.

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Their mission is dangerous, and as they venture further into the land of Ziva, they encounter many dangers, but grow closer together as they begin to understand their mission and each other. Filled with fantasy creatures, magic and elements of fairy tale, this is a stunning companion to The Starthorn Tree. It continues the story seamlessly, but at the same time, enough hints are given that they can be read as stand-alone books, though work better read together, and I am going to read the final book – The Starkin Crown – soon.

The dangerous mission is filled with monsters and moments of terror – when you think the characters won’t get out of it – but of course, as in fairy tales, they do. I couldn’t decide who my favourite was – they were all such wonderful characters, but I think my favourite moment was when Priscilla, Zed’s sister, dressed in clothing a starkin wouldn’t usually wear, and pushed the sinister Zakary over when he tries to force her to marry him. Each character is complex, and this was definitely a delightful moment in the book as the characters worked towards uniting their land. There were many moments I enjoyed – this was just the stand-out for me.

These books are beautifully written and evoke all the classic archetypes of fairy tale quests but with unique twists that place the girls and women at the centre of the story and with great agency and powers, whilst still containing nods to Rapunzel and her tower. The role of towers is common in Kate’s books, and as a fellow fairy tale scholar, I love reading her works, and seeing how she’s incorporated the tower and Rapunzel story into her work. These fairy tale elements are seamlessly and creatively woven throughout – they might be more obvious in the children’s books, or certain adult books, but they are always there.

Another brilliant offering from Kate Forsyth that I loved as I work my way through her books that I have not yet read or not read for some time – there are ones I wish to re-read and hopefully, can get to them soon.

Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

tilly 2.jpgTitle: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

Author: Anna James

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 24th September 20189

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A magical adventure to delight the imagination. The curl-up-on-the-sofa snuggle of a series from a uniquely talented author.

Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly’s powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc . . .

On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after?

The second enthralling tale in the bestselling PAGES & CO series.

~*~

Picking up a few weeks after the events of Tilly and the Bookwanderers, where Tilly’s mother returned, after being trapped in the pages of A Little Princess. As Bea adjusts to being back in her daughter’s life, the Underlibrarian, Amelia Whisper, is ousted and a new Underlibrarian, who wishes to create more authoritarian rules in the book wandering world, without thinking about how it will affect anyone, starts imposing his power. So just before Christmas, Tilly and her friend, Oskar, head to Paris to spend a few days with Oskar’s father. While there, Clara, Oskar’s grandmother, takes them to her friend’s bookstore:  The Faery Cabinet, owned by another bookwanderer, Gretchen Stein.

While there, Tilly and Oskar bookwander into a book of fairytales, where they discover a world fracturing and their book magic is leaking, causing havoc in the fictional world. After returning home, they discover an untoward plot to change fairytales and book magic. In an attempt to plug all the plot holes appearing, Tilly and Oskar will do whatever they can to find out who is behind it – but will they make it home for everyone’s happily ever after?

I started reading this series earlier this year and was hooked from the first chapter of the first book. I have loved it since discovering it, and with each book, a new library, and a new facet of literature and books is explored. Tilly’s favourite books are woven in again – especially Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden as she reconnects with her mother and her family works to reunite and maintain their love of books.

The magic in these stories are in their simplicity of the themes of family and reading, layered with the complexities of how different people react to books, words and the power of reading and words, and how they affect us or what they mean to us, whether spoken or written, and what each of these books means to each person who reads it.

Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales delves further into the history and mythology or book wandering, and who can do it and how, and reveals more secrets about Oskar and other characters that were hinted at in the first book, but left to the imagination – now we have our answers to this, but still await explanations about why Tilly can take things out of the books she wanders in, but nobody else can – this is a mystery that will be fun to uncover in the coming books.

Readers of all ages and genders will love this series – and they are the kinds of books that can be devoured or savoured, or both, and one that I will eagerly be anticipating the next release of – seeing as I managed to pick up this one just after it had been placed on the shelf in my local bookstore! Looking forward to more adventures with Tilly and Oskar in the future.

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.