Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda

lake of tears.jpgTitle: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st April 2001

Format: Paperback

Pages: 120

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Lief, Barda and their unruly new companion Jasmine are on a perilous quest to find the seven gems stolen from the magic Belt of Deltora.

The golden topaz has already been found. But only when all the gems have been restored to the Belt can their land be freed from the dark power of the evil Shadow Lord. To find the second stone, the three heroes must travel through territory ruled by the monster-sorceress Thaegan.

Their journey is filled with treachery, trickery and danger, and at its end they must face the hideous guardian of the enchanted Lake of Tears.

~*~

Picking up soon after they have found the first stone for the Belt of Deltora, Lief, Barda and Jasmine are on their way to the Lake of Tears to discover the second one, and where they will meet the first of Thaegan’s children, Nij and Doj, who speak a strange, haunting backwards language that gives a false sense of security to the travellers, following a broken sign that is very misleading. This is just one more dangerous step on the adventure to reunite the stones of the Belt of Deltora. This time, Lief and his companions seek the ruby – and from there, the next five to complete the belt and restore unity to Del.

I’m zipping through these books rather quickly and am trying to review each one individually before writing a wrap up post for the whole omnibus series edition I have next to me so I can move onto the second and third sets in the series. Again, this is a fast-moving book, where Lief and Barda must quickly adapt to trusting Jasmine and her ability to help them navigate the land of Del to find the stones.

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Lief, Jasmine and Barda take charge from this book onwards, and we still haven’t met the future ruler of Del, presumably still in hiding with Endon and his wife, where those who tried to kill them sixteen years before cannot find them – I will be keen to see how this is uncovered later on in the series and where the next two Deltora Quest sets take us. The perils that Lief and his companions face are heart-stopping as they work to escape being eaten by Nij and Doj (or Jin and Jod as it turns out, once they realise the two are speaking backwards), and must then face the prospect of the rest of Thaegan’s children in later books.

This is a fun series, and filled with adventure, friendship and wonder. It is one that has been loved for over a decade, and will hopefully continue to be loved and read for many years to come, if my conversations with fellow readers are anything to go by, as well as the constant lack of it being out of the library when I was much younger. So I am experiencing it now for the first time, and the magic is having as big an impact on me as it would have done had I read it as a teenager or young adult. This is what makes a good book, in my opinion. One that can transcend age and time for all readers, and that will engage on many levels and entertain many.

I’m heading into book three, The City of Rats, and hope to have that review up soon.

The Forests of Silence (Deltora Quest #1) by Emily Rodda

Title: The Forests of Silence (Deltora Quest #1)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 2000

Format: Paperback

Pages: 120

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Deltora is a land of monsters and magic …

The evil Shadow Lord is plotting to invade Deltora and enslave its people. All that stands against him is the magic Belt of Deltora, with its seven gems of great and mysterious power. When the gems are stolen and hidden in dark, terrible places throughout the kingdom, the Shadow Lord triumphs and Deltora is lost.

In secrecy, with only a hand-drawn map to guide them, two unlikely companions set out on a perilous quest. Determined to find the lost gems and rid their land of the tyrant, they struggle towards their first goal — the sinister Forests of Silence.

~*~

Opening with the death of a king, and the ascension of his son to the throne, Deltora Quest opens with a bang, introducing Jarred and Endon – as friends first. Yet when Endon is made king in light of his father’s death, Jarred learns that there is more to the removal of the Belt of Deltora than the history books tell. When he tries to warn his friend, Jarred is forced to run, and it will be seven years before they meet again and uncover a nefarious plot to take over the kingdom.

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Fast forward sixteen years, and Lief, Jarred’s son, heads off on a quest with a former palace guard, Barda, to find the stones of the Belt of Deltora that have been flung throughout the land. Whilst seeking the first stone, a topaz, they meet Jasmine, Kree and Filli, who join them on their quest. But will Lief and his companions succeed?

The start of a promising series for children aged eight to twelve, I have come to this several years after it was published, having recently stumbled across the omnibus editions in the bookstores. For me, it was a quick read, but enjoyable all the same. Each character has strengths and weaknesses that enable the plot to move forward, and it is the start of an epic adventure series that will have readers of all ages enthralled.

Introducing readers to Jarred and Endon first leads into the quest that Lief goes on, and gives a much needed, brief yet important background to the story that is to come. Of course, the main story is about Lief and his quest across the next seven books, which I am looking forward to exploring as I read the rest of the series. A friendship forms between Lief, Jasmine and Barda as they venture through the Forests of Silence in search of the first gem. But whilst Lief and Barda know they need Jasmine’s help, with the state the kingdom has been in for over twenty years, they do not know who they can trust, apart from each other.

As they traverse the forests to uncover what they seek, and then had off towards The Lake of Tears and more dangers and uncertainty that lie ahead, the troupe will no doubt encounter more challenges, and become closer as they head off on a quest to save the kingdom and restore the rightful monarch to the throne of Del.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of these books and will review each novel on its own, and finally, a wrap up post for the entire omnibus once I have done this. Look for more exciting Deltora reviews from me!

Book Bingo Eight – Double Bingo: A Book Set in an exotic location and a book by an author you’ve never read before 

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Hello, and welcome to week eight of book bingo with Amanda and Theresa. This week, I’m taking on another double bingo, and ticking off a book set in an exotic location, and a book by an author I have never read before. In all honesty, both books could fit into the second category, and one could also fit into the science fiction category, but it’s still only April, and I still have many books to read, review and that will hopefully fit into what I have left on my card. Next fortnight, I will be posting another double bingo about a book with a place in the title, and a book set on the Australian coast after both the posts have gone live for the blog tour that it they are part of.

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Here are the rows in the card this week’s choices come from:

Across

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row Five:

Written by an Australian Man:

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35:

Written by an author over the age of 65:

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Down:

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago:

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Square One: Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

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Okay, so I may have cheated a tad here, but to me, an exotic location is anything – real or imagined – that is either not my every day or that I have never experienced, something that is new to me and has a sense of the unusual, or the unknown but to be revealed and learned about. Quadara to me fits this, the setting for Four Dead Queens, because each Quadrant is different and therefore, not only exotic to the reader, but also to the characters, who never really venture into each other’s quadrants or meet each other but rely on information and supplies passed to them through those involved in trade. This is also a debut author, and like many books this year, would have fitted into the author I’ve never read before as well, and also had touches of science fiction mixed in with the fantasy, but I am hoping for a different title for that book.

Square Two: Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

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Bren MacDibble is another new author to me, and I had plenty to choose from for this category. It was one that didn’t fit into many others, which is why it has found its home here. Looking at an Australia devastated by a germ that wipes out many of the food sources, a brother and sister – who have different mothers but the same father, set out to find Emery’s Indigenous family for help. It brings diversity together in many ways – race, and personality types and the way people unite in times of difficulty or turn on each other. Coming to Bren’s writing for the first time, this one held my attention completely and is one I recommend to people to read.

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I’m planning another double book bingo for next fortnight, and that should hopefully knock off all the squares I have ticked off so far, or be getting close to that stage. See you then!

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Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (illustrator)

the talent show.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (illustrator)

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:120

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Sophia, Willow, Chloe and Olivia have been best friends since they were merbies. Even though they don’t go to school together, whenever they come home to Turtleville for the holidays, they are inseparable.

This holidays, something super exciting is happening  Turtleville’s first Talent Show! Sophia can’t wait. She was born to perform! The besties enter as a group, but will Sophia’s love of the spotlight ruin everything?

Whatever happens, the show must go on!

~*~

The start of a new series – for any age group – is always an exciting thing as a book reviewer, and getting to review the very first book is something I love doing, especially when it captures the imagination and proves itself to be magical and exciting, and hopefully, have a very wide appeal to younger readers. This month sees the release of the first title in a new series about four best friends who are mermaids – aimed at younger girls but anyone can read it if they want to.

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Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show is the first in the new series by Delphine Davis and illustrated by Adele K Thomas. It looks as though each mermaid is going to be given a different colour, which is highlighted for that mermaid in the colour of the book, pages and the illustrations. In this case, pink for Sophia Seashell, who takes a starring role in the first book as she convinces her friends to participate with her in the local talent show during their school holidays – but when Sophia decides it will be a mess to showcase all their talents, and not just singing, they might never make it to the show at all. Can Sophia and her companion seahorse, Smedley, find a way to make it work for everyone, so they have a chance at the prize?

This was a fun read that younger readers will enjoy reading with a family member, or by themselves for the first time as they explore friendship, and the ups and downs of having friends, ultimately showing that having fun is more important than winning. And that sometimes, doing things you’re unsure about can be as much fun as doing the things you are familiar with. The most important thing is to have fun with your friends – and this is a good message to send to kids of all ages and genders, to teach them to appreciate people.

Adults can also learn from children’s books like this, and might learn the same lessons, and might have ideas reinforced or be reminded of what being a child is like. Overall though, it was a fun read and one I hope other people enjoy when it comes out.

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Book Bingo Six – Themes of Fantasy and Themes of Justice

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Another fortnight, and another book bingo post, my reading challenge done with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett, and a few others who have decided to take part with us. I am doing another double bingo this week and might be doing a double bingo next time. For themes of Fantasy, I chose the epic and much-anticipated finale to the Medoran Chronicles, which began in 2015 with Akarnae. My second square will be Themes of Justice, another book

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vardaesia_3d-coverThis series by Australian author, Lynette Noni, published by Pantera Press, is the series that got me started in blogging, and concluded this year with the heart-stopping, fast-paced Vardaesia, where the final battles between Alex and Aven come to a head, and where we will finally see the fate of Medora, and by extension, the entire world beyond Medora. Who will win? Aven, or Alex?

With this book, we wrap up the battles and troubles of Medora, and the journey of Alex and her friends. There is a hint at more Medoran books, but what these will be, and when they come and are set, is yet to be seen.

What-Lies-Beneath-Us-Cover-sample-copy-197x300My second book for this week fits the themes of justice square. This one is by the debut author, Kirsty Ferguson, whose book I also had the privilege of copyediting, and then reviewing – an interesting venture, as I had to switch off my editor’s brain whilst reading and go into reader-reviewer mode – it’s not as easy a task as you might think! What Lies Beneath Us is a book filled with twists and turns, following the murder of a young baby, Jason James. Is it a natural death, or is there something more sinister going on in the family or in the neighbourhood? It is a complex narrative with an unsettling ending that has a feeling of finality, yet that there is more to come later on.

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Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

four dead queens.jpgTitle: Four Dead Queens

Author: Astrid Scholte

Genre: Fantasy/Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $19.99

Synopsis:A thrilling debut YA fantasy novel for fans of Red Queen and Three Dark Crowns.

Four Queens. A divided nation. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington is one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves, but when she steals an unexpectedly valuable package from a messenger she is soon entangled in a conspiracy that leads to all four of Quadara’s queens being murdered.

With no other choices and on the run from her former employer, Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, and together they race to discover who has killed the queens. But when dark secrets threaten their reluctant partnership and put everything at stake, Keralie and Varin must use all their daring to stay alive and untangle the mysteries behind the nation’s four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

~*~

Keralie Corrington lives in Quadara, a land ruled by four queens – one from each quadrant – and no king. It has been this way for many years, and the citizens of each quadrant are used to being ruled by the queens: Ludia, ruled by Queen Stessa, is the fun quadrant, Eonia is the frozen quadrant, reliant on technology, ruled by Queen Corra. Queen Marguerite rules Toria, the isle of commerce, and Queen Iris rules Archia, where all Quadara’s produce is grown. When thief Keralie, is caught stealing something for Mackiel to sell at the auction house by Eonist messenger, Varin Bolt. This item holds something that will change the course of Quadara forever – the plot to kill all four queens – which comes to pass, as the title suggests. Keralie and Varin set out to stop the killer, or, if they can’t, catch them in the act.

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Using the alternating perspectives of Keralie in first person and each of the queens in third person, the story evolves at a decent pace, revealing secrets, twists and turns as it goes – from relationships between characters, to the history or Quadara, and every other aspect of the mystery surrounding the deaths of the four queens. In doing so, Astrid appears to weave a recent past together with Keralie’s present, and whether this is the case or not, I shall let readers discover for themselves. Either way, it is cleverly done, and clear – and it works well for this story and allows for a mysterious feeling about when in the timeline of the story we are, and a clever look at how each queen is murdered.

Four Dead Queens is Astrid Scholte’s debut novel, and it is a fine debut. It is complex and intriguing, and filled with mystery woven throughout the story, and on every page. Not only the mystery of who kills the queens and how, but the mystery and secrets that each character whose perspectives are present and all those who speak on the page, even if not the primary characters. It is filled with fantastical aspects as well as technology and touches of what could be science fiction, but primarily, this is a fantasy novel even though it crosses several genres.

It is a very female driven novel, which I really enjoyed. It was a powerful read because it showed female characters along a spectrum – in so many different ways that to list them all might be a bit spoilerish, and I want to avoid that but I absolutely loved the diversity of the characters and their personalities and who they were. On top of this, there were so many twists and turns that kept coming right up until the end, and constantly had me guessing at what was to come and questioning what I knew.

The mystery and the big reveals are cleverly plotted and revealed right when they need to be – like any good mystery or crime novel should do. Overall, I really liked this book and it works well as a stand-alone, where everything is concluded but also left a bit open-ended for readers to imagine what happens next.

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Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia_3D-Cover.pngTitle: Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: “When Day and Night combine and fight against one Enemy, then Dark and Light shall meet mid-strike and set the Captives free.”

In the wake of loss and devastation, Alex must cast aside her grief to seek aid from those who banished the Meyarins long ago. But the proud Tia Aurans care little for the woes of mortals and demand that Alex—and her friends—undergo the Gates of Testing to prove their world is worth saving.

With an ancient prophecy looming, Alex must confront the secrets of her past if she is to survive long enough to see the future. For if she returns to Medora without the Tia Aurans by her side, all hope will be lost.

In this explosive conclusion to The Medoran Chronicles, the fate of Medora hangs in the balance as Alex readies herself to face Aven one final time.

Who will survive, and who will fall?

“If, however, darkness wins, there is no strategy to keep from all that will be lost, and so will always be.”

~*~

Alex’s journey to save Medora from Aven Dalmarta is about to conclude, and the question of whether or not she will succeed hangs in the air as she faces yet more challenges and tragedies. Within days after the final events of Graevale, Alex and her friends are thrust into the Tia Auran world, where they must face the Gates of Testing together over a week. In undergoing these tests, Alex hopes to prove to the Tia Aurans that the humans and other mortal races of Medora are worthy of assistance from the Tia Aurans in their fight against Aven – which at the opening of the novel, feels as futile as it has for the past four books and the recent novella. As they venture through each of the gates, tested beyond their individual and collective limits, they are unaware of what is happening back home with everyone that they love and hold dear. Throughout the series, there has been a foreboding and trepidation with what is to come, and the prophecy has always lingered in the back of Alex’s mind. And finally, we are going to get our answers – will Alex and her friend succeed, or will Aven rule over all?

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I’ve been with this series since the beginning, way back in 2015 when I undertook an internship with the publisher, Pantera Press, and it is to this series, its author, Lynette Noni, and Ali and the gang at Pantera Press I have to thank for getting me wholeheartedly into my book blogging journey, which keeps me pretty busy these days. Anyway, back to the book! I was expecting it to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for some of those chapter cliff-hangers that cropped up – and that kept me reading to make sure everyone would be okay – if only for a chapter or two until the next time. There are many heart-pounding moments, and many moments that had me staring at the page hoping the worst would not happen. During one of the trials, one of my favourite lines in the whole series cropped up, spoken by Alex in defiance of the Tia Aurans:

“The surest way to become a monster is to follow in their footsteps.”

 

 

At this point, Alex reveals her strength and vulnerability – her strength of resisting the adhere to sadistic, cold desires of an immortal race, who seem to care little about the world they are part of, and her human vulnerability of love for those she holds dear, even someone she has known for a mere week whilst in Tia Auras. This is what I love about her – that she has flaws and she even embraces them at times, and jokes about them with her friends. Yet she knows that there is strength within love – and it is her love for her family, friends and Medora that will spur her on to the end, even when all seems lost.

The final climactic chapters are so fast paced, it feels like they are flying past, and to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, I flicked back once or twice – worried I had missed an important aspect of the battle or a move Aven had made – or even just to make sure I had read something correctly, as the next lines sometimes came as a  huge shock – in more ways than one. There’s laughing, tears, and everything in between – with moments of momentary peace between the trials and battles as friends and family regroup and come to terms with the changes in their world, the changes to come. It is a perfect ending to the series, where all the threads from the rest of the series are all brought together in a finale that ensures wrapping up the series gives closure for readers and will always be a favourite.

Vardaesia is out on the 18th of February in paperback and e-book from Pantera Press.

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