Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson

Jorie 1.pngTitle: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Author: A.H. Richardson

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Serano Press

Published: 26th December 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 263

Price: $31.99 (Australian) $14.99 (US)

Synopsis: When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius.

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

~*~

*I was contacted to review this book through my blog.

The story starts with Jorie waiting to be taken to Mortimer Manor, where she is to live with her aunt, after leaving a convent school. She is an orphan and is being sent to live with her only living relative. Set in a village that could be either English or Scottish, Jorie’s days are quiet, despite her imagination, until she meets the grandson of neighbour, Colonel Hercules, and a strange white cat who lives by the Tarn outside the Manor. One day she discovers an entrance to another world through the Tarn, where she is known as the Child with Hair of Fire, destined to find three magic stones and keep them from falling into the hands of those who want to do harm to Cabrynthius. Contending with an evil Lord, a psycho tutor with an interest in the stones and Tarn, Jorie and her friend Rufus must find the two remaining stones after discovering one on the necklace Jorie’s mother left to her. And so, begins a journey down into the Tarn, and through an unknown world, full of unknown dangers, dragons and strange looking creatures, and those who want the stones for good, and those who wish to exploit them, to find the remaining two stones and reunite them for the Great Grootmonya.

The Magic Stones in the title are called the Stones of Maalog, said to be an ancestor of Jorie’s, and founder of the village they live in. This history is revealed in the first few chapters, with a little bit too much telling, and could have used a little bit more showing, but it gave background to the novel whilst introducing Jorie to the mystery she’d be solving. Though perhaps this could have been spread out a little more, to add to the discoveries Jorie made along the way.

The premise of Jorie and the Magic Stones is interesting and caught my interest and curiosity when I was contacted through my blog to review it, and I adored that it was set in England, and had a female lead who did not need to rely on Rufus to save her, but rather, assist her and make sure she could do what she needed to do. What the story did well was encapsulate a feeling of magic, albeit a tiny bit too slowly – the action could have happened a bit sooner than it did, though when it did happen, the story started to pick up pace a little bit, which was good.

As the story moved on, the journey was fun and magical. My favourite character was Chook, the baby dragon. I did like that Jorie was the hero and was allowed to be herself with Rufus. Like many children’s stories over the decades, Jorie is an orphan with an indifferent guardian – not so indifferent that she hates her, just absentee, like Colonel Hercules. The trope of the orphaned child or absentee guardian used here acts as a catalyst to start Jorie and Rufus on their journey.  As this is the beginning of a series, there are a few unanswered questions that will hopefully be answered for readers in later books, as sometimes there were holes and questions that needed to be filled and answered.

Overall though, it was a cute story about friendship, against a backdrop of prophecy and destiny, something used often but with varying plots and takes on the idea of a destined child. It was light hearted and not too dark, so it would suit any readership who enjoys these sorts of stories,  and children aged nine and older looking for adventure and new places to visit.

About the Author:

 

  1. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an author.

She has written a series of children’s chapter books, the Jorie series, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire.

In addition to the Jorie series, she is also the author of the Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder mysteries. Murder in Little Shendon is the first book in the series. It’s a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick, Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. And she has more ‘who-dun-its’ with this clever and interesting duo… Act One, Scene One – Murder and Murder at Serenity Farm.

  1. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

 

Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/

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Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One by Paige L. Christie

Draigon Weather cover_for promotion (1).jpegTitle: Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One

Author: Paige L. Christie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Prospective Press

Published: 3rd October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: AU$32.75 (Booktopia) US$15.95

Synopsis: The brutal, drought-bringing heat that arises from the colossal, near-mythical Draigon, is a fell portent, heralding the doom of a bad woman.

When Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve the terrible drought, Leiel is marked by the shame brought to her family. She must leave school, relegated to a new life of servitude.

Cleod, the woodcutter’s son, is Leiel’s closest friend. To avenge Leiel’s mother, he vows to rise above his station and join the Ehlewer Enclave, an elite society famed for training men to kill Draigon.

The friends’ lives take different paths. Cleod struggles with divided loyalties as he learns he cannot be a Draigon hunter while remaining a friend to a tainted woman. Leiel seeks forbidden knowledge and old secrets, placing herself in danger of sharing her mother’s fate.

When Draigon Weather returns to the land, Cleod has the chance to fulfil all his promises—both to Leiel and to his new masters, the Ehlewer. But as the rivers choke on their own silt and heat cracks the earth, the choices the two friends made begin to catch up with them, for what plagues Arnan is more than just a monster.

~*~

A copy of this book was sent to me by the author for review.

Leiel Sower is a girl in a place threatened by what they cannot understand – educated women. She attends school, despite disapproving looks, and is educated at home by her mother, Ilora. For several years of her childhood, Leiel is happy, she has a friend, Cleod, and they both have dreams. Until the day the Draigon Weather comes, and Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve a drought that has plagued Arnan for too long. In the years that follow, Leiel and Cleod’s lives take off on different paths. While Cleod trains to be one of the few who can fight the Draigon, Leiel’s life becomes one of servitude to her brothers, Gial and Klem, and her father. The return of Draigon Weather brings Cleod back, hoping to fulfil his promise to Leiel to make sure she doesn’t meet her mother’s fate – but they must face more than just the Draigon that plagues Arnan.

I love a good fantasy story, and one that focuses on friendships between women and between the main male and female characters is always of great interest. Showing these relationships between Gahree and Leiel, Leiel and Cleod and Elda, Torrin and Leiel play a large part in the story, and how Leiel relates to her world and her family, and what drives her. Leiel is a character who does not let her circumstances and status in her family and society define her. She fights against it, subversively, and makes her voice heard, even though it is often overruled, she finds comfort and power in making herself heard, even if her brother, Klem, refuses to listen to her, she has a partial ally in Gial and a friend in Cleod, and the other women in her life, \who understand the struggles she is facing.

The world of Arnan is also complex, where certain classes and men are valued over other classes and women, and where everyone seems to publicly accept the rules, but subversively, and within the rules of the world around them, try and rebel and change it from within. It is a world of tradition, but tradition that needs to be broken apart and rebuilt, in a world where certain behaviours mean you’ll be sacrificed to a hungry Draigon.

I was contacted by the author to read and review this book after she found my blog and was asked to read and review this book. I gladly did, and I enjoyed Leiel and Cleod’s story. I particularly enjoyed the focus on friendship and platonic love over romantic love, and the strong female characters who don’t let anything keep them down and stay true to themselves. It is a story about the power of friendship, and the subversive powers that society sees as a threat and challenge to the status quo of Arnan, not realising what the people that the Council looks down upon can contribute. The bonds of friendship throughout this novel were strong, and enduring until the end, and the last pages gave a nice set up for what is to come in book two.

This is a very enjoyable read for lovers of fantasy, dragons, and those who like their relationships between all characters to unfold and develop into friendship and bonds that cannot be broken. I hope the questions Cleod had at the end will be answered soon.

 

 

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Graevale (Medoran Chronicles #4) by Lynette Noni

Transparent_3D_Cover_Noni_Graevale.pngTitle: Graevale (Medoran Chronicles #4)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 450

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: ‘Light of dark, only one can win. This world cannot survive in shades of grey.’

Now that Aven Dalmarta sits upon the throne of Meya, Alex must race against the clock to save the rest of Medora from the Rebel Prince’s wrath.

Haunted by an unspeakable vision of the future, Alex and her friends set out to warn the mortal races. But making allies out of ancient enemies proves difficult.

With her nights spend deep in the Library under the guidance of a mysterious new mentor, Alex is desperate to strengthen her gift and keep all those she loves safe. Because in a world where nothing is certain, she is sure of only one thing:

Aven is coming.

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The Medoran Chronicles by Lynette Noni have been described as ‘a game changer’ in YA fiction. A page-turning fantasy series about friendship, finding yourself and the ultimate battle of good versus evil. The Medoran Chronicles are perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Rick Riordan.

The eagerly anticipated fourth book in the series builds to a stunning climax with shock twists and devastating losses. Graevale is an unforgettable read.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseI have been following Alexandra Jennings and her journey since Akarnae was first published, jumping at the chance to review it during an internship at the publisher, Pantera Press. And so, not only did my book blogging grow from there, I fell in love with a series that has me eagerly awaiting each new instalment from Raelia onwards. The early arrival of Graevale as a pre-order meant I got stuck into it right away, keen to know what happened next. Picking up soon after her return from the past and Draekora, Alex is in the midst of telling her friends, Bear, Jordan and Dix what unfolded during that time, and what is to come. Together, they hatch a daring plan to talk to Akarnae’s teachers and the king and queen, and the defences, before heading to speak with the other mortal races of Medora to warn them about the impending war and threat that Aven will bring with him.

Alex is driven to do this and protect those she cares about, and train harder to unlock her gift by a haunting vision of the future she saw in book three – Draekora. With Aven coming, Alex soon finds she has few people she can rely on: Dix, Bear, Jordan, Bear’s father, and the Meyarins, Niyx, Kyia and Zain, whom she trusts fully and who trust her to let them know what is coming and the dangers they will all eventually face at the hands of Aven. What is to come is nothing short of devastating for so many, and painful in so many ways for Alex, least of all being the additional training she receives with a new mentor and mystery classmate in late night sessions in the Library.

Because each novel has started soon after the events of the previous novel, this has a decent pace for the series, and although they all end on rather emotionally wrought cliff-hangers, these work well to keep the reader wanting more and eager for the next book. With book five to follow soon, this September will see We Three Heroes, a collection of novellas told from Bear, Jordan and Dix’s point of views to take place in between Graevale and the last book of the series.

Alex’s journey has been filled with ups and downs, triumphs and failures, but her stubborn nature has seen her through it all, her determination to stop Aven and save Medora and those she cares about driving her towards a goal that seems unattainable, but knowing Alex, she’ll get there, with the help of those she trusts to guide her and assist her where necessary. The darker covers and the smaller the figure of Alex gets demonstrates before you even begin reading how dark and dangerous things are going to be getting.

I enjoyed Graevale, despite the always present Aven and the tragic ending – expected in a war that has been hinted at but no less painful and haunting, and it sits nicely on my shelf with the others, each spine getting progressively darker. So I hope fans of the series enjoy it as much as I have, and I look forward to we Three Heroes and book five when they are released, although I wish they would come out sooner rather than later.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

AU FB Illustrated-AU-Book-Jacket (1)Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition)

Author: JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

Genre: Fantasy, Chidrens and YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 7th November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 160

Price: $45.00

Synopsis: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic!

This glorious new edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (considered a classic throughout the wizarding world) 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.

This new edition features the fully updated 2017 text – which includes new profiles of six magnificent beasts that inhabit North America and a new foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.

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hp20_230As part of the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter last year, JK Rowling re-released a special edition of Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Previously published in several different editions for Wizards and Muggles separately, this illustrated version is an exquisite addition to any Harry Potter library. Several new creatures have been added, such as the Thunderbird, the Wampus Cat and various other creatures found during Newt’s travels across the world when he first wrote the book, giving a larger scope to the wizarding world. Within these covers, there are new introductory notes from Newt by way of JK Rowling, discussing the differences in attitudes to magical creatures and wizards in different places. Each creature has a specific description and Ministry of Magic Classification, ranging from not so dangerous to extremely dangerous, as shown below.

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

A previous edition in 2017 included the new creatures and the first editions made available through Bloomsbury and Comic Relief provided only text, and a few pictures by Tomislav Tomic, whose illustrations where wonderful, and the new ones by Olivia Lomenech Gill are beautiful.

Neither artist can be fairly compared, as they each have their own style, and each style, much like Jim Kay’s style in the illustrated novels contribute something unique to the book, and these full-colour illustrations bring the creatures to life in a new and vibrant way for fans of the Wizarding World of JK Rowling.

Olivia’s illustrations evoke the same magic and wonder as the words they sit with on the page, giving a better scope to the world of magical creatures. Though some have shorter descriptions, in the world of Newt Scamander, this would be down to what he could find out, especially during his time in America, where he was shown how secretive the world was in the movie. All in all, this is a delightful companion to the Harry Potter books to coincide with the 20th anniversary in 2017.

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Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

 

In my third wrap up post for 2017, I am looking at my favourite reads of the year. Over the past twelve months of reading so many books, narrowing down my favourites has been quite hard. There are definitely a few that stick out, though. Deciding how many to include in my favourites for the year was a challenge as well. Three wasn’t enough, five barely covered them and ten seems like the next logical number. However, when it came to ranking the books I chose, I found that it was impossible to do so, because I loved them all equally and for different reasons, so to place one book ahead of another didn’t feel right. With a goal of at least ten favourite reads, more if I need them, I have compiled this list. I have listed them as I thought of them, and linked my review. My one stipulation was that the books on this list had to be published this year. I settled on … books in the end, as these were the ones that really stood out to me as exceptional for a variety of reasons.

 

nevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend – a debut Children’s and YA novel about a cursed chid,Morrigan Crow, who is whisked off to the Wundrous land of Nevermoor to compete for a chance at a place at the academy there, and to escape the death that all children born on Eventide must face at the age of eleven. It has been compared to Harry Potter, and it has that some wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. With book two out later in 2018, I am anxious to find out what will happen to Mog, Jupiter North and Fen the cat, who became my favourite character rather quickly. I devoured it in two days, and look forward to reading it again.

 

 

Facing the FlameFacing the Flame by Jackie French – the seventh book in the Matilda Saga takes place a few years after the solemn end of If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Jed Kelly is getting married, and is going to have a baby. In the final days of her pregnancy, Jed must run from the fire and an old adversary to save her life, and her baby. As the fire closes in on Gibber’s Creek, lives will be lost and found, and Jed’s world changes forever. The Matilda Saga is one of my favourite series, and with a new book out each year, I look forward to reuniting with the families of Gibbers Creek each December.

 

 

stars across the oceanStars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman – The story of foundling baby, Agnes Resolute, determined to find her birth mother, whom she thinks is Genevieve Breckby. A journey from the foundling home to London and across the world will lead her to her real mother. It is a story about a strong young woman, determined not to let anything stop her, but a woman of her time as well, finding ways to fit in whilst taking her fate into her own hands. It also tells the dual storyline of a young woman in the 21st century, caring for her mother, and following the journey of Agnes that her mother has been researching. It has a touch of romance that happens as a result

of events in the story, rather than driving the plot. It was a good read, and definitely one of my favourites.

 

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – a favourite

BeautyinThorns_Cover

reads list of mine would not be complete without Kate Forsyth’s latest fairy tale infused historical fiction novel.  Beauty in Thorns is about the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art society, primarily the women w

ho inspired the words and paintings of their husbands and lovers and fathers, and what they contributed. In a world where women were expected to raise children and run a household, the Pre-Raphaelite women did this and inspired the men in their lives, and some even contributed their own artistic talents to exhibitions. Exquisitely told, with the flaws as well as the strengths present, Kate Forsyth is a master at telling the little-known stories of women in history, and bringing historical characters such as Lizzie Siddal to life with her words.

 

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill another author whose books I eagerly await each year is Sulari Gentill, primarily her Rowland Sinclair series. Eight books in, and poor Rowly keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting embroiled in murder and mayhem, and involved in the left side of the political spectrum, far from what his brother, Wilfred, wishes he would do. Several months after the total destruction of his Mercedes in a race that almost claimed his life, Rowland is car shopping in Melbourne with Milt, the Jewish Communist poet, and Clyde, a working-class painter, for a new car. On the drive back from Melbourne, they stop in Canberra, where a Communist is murdered, and soon, both Rowly and Milt find their lives in jeopardy. Set in the 1930s as worldwide political tensions lead to the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the devastation of the Second World War, each book gets more political, and Sulari manages this with great skill, ensuring an engaging series that I feel gets better with each book.

 

into the worldInto the World by Stephanie Parkyn – Another historical fiction novel by a debut Australian female author, and another book I read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as all the books so far have been. Set during the French Revolution of the 1790s, Marie-Louise Giradin leaves her son with a trusted friend, and, disguised as a man, travels on a journey to find La Perouse, lost at sea in the Southern Oceans around the newly colonised Australia. Her journey takes her to Tasmania, where the stories she has heard are far from the truth of what she sees here and on stops along the way, where she tries to speak out, horrified when she sees the slave trade in full swing. It is a journey that is full of surprises – where Marie Louise and the crew find that they may never reach the shores of their beloved France again after Louis XIV is beheaded. It was delightful to read a novel where the woman’s primary role was one of strength and courage, and where women were shown to do things beyond what society expected them to do. A great story, and an enjoyable one.

 

draekoraDraekora by Lynette Noni – Returning to Akarnae and its world each year is a pleasure Set just after the events of Raelia, Alex, Bear and D.C. must find a way to save Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven, the Meyarin Prince who seeks to reclaim their world at any cost. Sent to Meya, and thousands of years into the past, Alex must find a way to get back, and complete her testing and training before she can face Aven. In this fantasy series, each book has been engaging and enthralling, with a strong focus on friendship as the primary relationships in the novel. With Graevale out in a matter of months, this is definitely making my list of favourite books I have read this year, and I am looking forward to Graevale.

 

baby ganesh 3The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan Up until now, each book has been by an Australian female author, and mostly fantasy or historical fiction. The Baby Ganesh series is set in Mumbai, and revolves around a private detective, Chopra, investigating crimes with his trusty elephant, Ganesha, who loves Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate. The pair often insert themselves into investigations, much to the dismay of Chopra’s formidable wife, Poppy, and end up getting into scrapes that young Ganesha manages to get them out of. In the third book, a famous Bollywood star has gone missing, and Chopra and Ganesha are on the trail. A few rough turns take them to unexpected places, and with an ending that was surprising this series has a character to it that few I have read do.

 

bedlam stacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – In what I feel can only be described as historical fiction infused with magical realism, this was one of the most interesting books I read this year. As smuggler Merrick Tremayne is at home, he is summoned to go on an expedition to South America to find quinine to help with malaria outbreaks in East India. What Tremayne and his companions find has them questioning what they know, and how to deal with the world as they have understood and known it. What was clever about this book was that it felt like a historical fiction until nearer the end, when the subtle hints towards the magical realism in the book started to come together. Cleverly done so the reader gets a surprise, I hope that Natasha Pulley writes some more books like this.

 

rotherweirdRotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – This one, set in a town that lives in the current times but whose lives mimic those of Shakespearean times, made the list for its inventiveness, and clever execution, much like Bedlam Stacks. It is part historical fiction, part fantasy, with each section opening and closing with a snippet of the history of the town that history teacher, Jonah Oblong has come to teach in. Cast away from Elizabethan England, Rotherweird seems to have moved on in years but is stuck in a time when a Virgin Queen sat on the throne and a playwright who charmed audiences in the Globe Theatre. It is a place full of anachronisms, cleverly used, and where local history and pre-1800 history is not taught. I look forward to the next book, and what it brings to the mystery and intrigue of this anachronistic little town.

 

Of course, there are many more that I loved, but these are amongst my favourites and the ones that made me think and that offered something a little bit different to some other books out there. Bring on 2018!

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Book Muse, Ashleigh

 

 

 

Harry Potter: A Journey Through The History of Magic

journey through a history of magic.jpgTitle: Harry Potter: A Journey Through The History of Magic

Author: The British Library

Genre: Fiction/Exhibition Catalogue

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 6th November 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 144

Price: $21.99

Synopsis: An irresistible romp through the history of magic, from alchemy to unicorns, ancient witchcraft to Harry’s Hogwarts – packed with unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and weird, wonderful and inspiring artefacts that have been magically released from the archives at the British Library.

This spellbinding book takes readers on a journey through the Hogwarts curriculum, including Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Divination and more. Discover the truth behind making the Philosopher’s Stone, create your very own potion and uncover the secret of invisible ink. Learn all about the history of mandrake roots and dragons, discover what witches really used their brooms for, pore over incredible images of actual mermaids and read about real-life potions, astronomers and alchemists.

The perfect gift for aspiring witches and wizards and any Harry Potter fan. Celebrating twenty years of Harry Potter magic, and produced in association with the British Library to support their major exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

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~*~

 

In this family-oriented volume of the exhibition catalogue, Harry Potter’s world is revealed in an interesting and accessible way. The previously reviewed volume, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, contains essays and more facts and images of artefacts that are geared towards the historically minded. In this volume, the same chapters have been condensed for a younger audience, and peppered with some of the more interesting artefacts, such as character portraits by Jim Kay, scans of original drafts by JK Rowling and mostly, historical artefacts that relate directly to things in the book. This edition also has activities peppered throughout, aimed at children to try with their parents. As with Harry Potter: A History of Magic, this book is divided into the following sections that follow the subjects undertaken at school, with a few additional ones In place of the longer introduction and essays in the longer, more in-depth volume: The Magical World of Harry Potter, The Journey, Potions and Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures, Past, Present and Future, The British Library, and JK Rowling.  Each chapter has a brief synopsis of the type of magic, specific to Harry’s world, with real world and Wizarding World examples, presented in less depth but no less interest and magic than in the longer version. In fact, it is hard to decide which I prefer more – as a historian, the other one gives greater insight to the history, whereas this one has a hint of whimsy and fun about it for a younger audience. That said, fans of any age will enjoy both these volumes immensely.

hp20_230For those Harry Potter fans who are unable to attend the exhibition themselves, these books allow them to take the journey themselves, and imagine that they are there. It would be lovely to see this in person, but I can at least experience a taste of it through this volume, and its companion, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. I hope we get more insight into this world through other text books, such as Hogwarts: A History.

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The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

la belle sauvage.jpgTitle: The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage

Author: Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy, YA Children’s Literature

Publisher: Penguin Books/David Fickling Books

Published: 19th October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Philip Pullman returns to the world of His Dark Materials with this magnificent first volume of The Book of Dust.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua.

Malcolm was the landlord’s son, an only child…he had friends enough, but he was happiest on his own playing with his daemon Asta in their canoe, which was called La Belle Sauvage.

 

Malcolm Polstead’s life in the pub beside the Thames is safe and happy enough, if uneventful. But during a winter of unceasing rain the forces of science, religion and politics begin to clash, and as the weather rises to a pitch of ferocity, all of Malcolm’s certainties are torn asunder. Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make the dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra forever.

~*~

La Belle Sauvage takes place in 1986, ten years before the events of Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in America), in an alternate Oxford where people’s souls are daemons on the outside of their bodies, and where technology has a Victorian or steampunk feel to it – gyrocopters and zeppelins that speed through the air, and carriages that trundle along the streets, whilst Malcolm and the other children do not play video games, but out in the wilderness. This idyllic life that the characters lead that reminded me of The Wind in the Willows and the idyllic world the Lewis Carroll created in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not to last. As the winter draws in and the rain that has been threatening to fall begins to make good on its threat, Malcolm, and the barmaid at his parent’s bar, the Trout, will find themselves caught up where religion, science and politics begin to intersect, and interfere in people’s lives. The culprit behind this has a honey sweet voice, and a golden monkey as her daemon, and a charm about her that will draw many children into the organisation she has formed to enforce control over everyone and denounce the work of Lord Asriel and his cohorts. The arrival of Mrs Coulter and the flood sends Malcolm, Alice and baby Lyra on a dangerous journey as they try to save Lyra and Pantalaimon from the clutches of those who want to harm her. In this world, they can trust nobody but themselves, and as the perilous journey will show, the danger of extreme politics and religion will only harm the innocent.

Over two decades later, Pullman has successfully drawn his devoted audience back into the world of Lyra and Pan, and their Oxford. It is an Oxford of wonder and a world influenced by myth and fairy tale, where the dangers of the world are not always people with weapons or weather, but also mystical forces that try and delay or prevent Malcolm, Alice and Lyra from moving on. Farder Coram’s appearance is brief; however, it is important to note due to the role that he and the other gyptians, and the witches, come to play in the His Dark Materials trilogy. For fans of this trilogy, it has been a seventeen year wait for this new series, and it did not fail to impress. It was one that I savoured a little, and meandered a bit with so I could fully appreciate the story. Lyra’s presence is important, as she is the driving force behind Malcolm and Alice’s mission – and baby Pan was adorable. I hope that  their presence will be felt in forthcoming books for The Book of Dust, as I and many other readers enjoy Lyra and her world, and her Oxford wouldn’t be the same without her.

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