The Mapmaker Chronicles #1 By A.L. Tait

Title: Race to the End of the Earth (The Mapmaker Chronicles #1)
Author: A.L. Tait
Genre: Fantasy, Children
Publisher: Hachette Children’s
Published: 14/10/2014
Synopsis: A map of the world? Why did the King want that? Everyone knew if you went too far in either direction you’d fall off the edge, into the jaws of Genesi, the fire-breathing dragon.

A reluctant adventurer.

A ship captained by a slave.

A mysterious sea monster.

And a race to the end of the world.

The first thrilling book in The Mapmaker Chronicles.

~*~
Young Quinn is living a quiet life on his family farm in Verdania when he receives a visit from a Deslonder, Master Blau, requesting him to attend schooling and eventually a quest as the mapmaker aboard a ship, trying to make a map of their world. Quinn’s uncanny ability to memorise anything is seen as a useful skill in this quest.
Along the way, Quinn and his travelling companions must encounter hostile people and lands, sea monsters and the competing teams who will stop at nothing to quash Quinn, his friend Ash and their captain, Zain. The other teams in the race to discover and map the rest of the world are amongst their biggest threats, the apprentices, such as Ajax and his leader, Odilon. The attempts of these other teams to thwart Quinn and Zain underestimate the photographic memory that Quinn possesses, which should give him an advantage over the other mapmakers.
Like many adventure fantasy stories aimed at children aged nine years and over, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World takes children and those who are kids at heart, on an adventure through a new world, one of magic and monsters. A world where they can imagine themselves as the hero, and take on monsters and enemies, and conquer their fears through the actions and the eyes of Quinn and Ash, whose perilous journey in the first book is just the beginning of what is to come.
As a first book for a series, it is well written, and full of adventure for both boys and girls. It can be enjoyed by any child, and is a quick, easy read, and one that can hopefully persuade a reluctant reader to peruse and open them up to a new world of books and words.

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Beast’s Garden

the beasts gardenAuthor: Kate Forsyth

Publisher: Random House

Category: Fiction

Pages: 512

Available formats: Print

Publication Date: 3/8/15

Synopsis:

‘Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world …’ 
A retelling of the Grimms’ Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany.

It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.
Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance.
Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

Kate Forsyth weaves fairy tales into history again in her latest offering, The Beast’s Garden. Set in Germany in The Second World War, Ava is thrust into a world of horrors under the Nazi regime. Her world begins to fall apart the Night of The Broken Glass, and as her best friend and father are arrested. To save her father, she weds a Nazi Officer, Leo von Löwenstein. Ava’s horror at the Nazi regime inspires her to join an underground resistance movement, helping the victims, yet hiding this double life from her husband.

As she realises Leo is part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, and Berlin is bombed indiscriminately into rubble. Ava is forced to live in the rubble, hand to mouth as the Gestapo hunts down any and all resistance to the regime plaguing Germany.

Kate Forsyth set the Grimm brothers tale, “The Singing, Springing Lark” against this dark period in history. We bear witness to these atrocities through the eyes of Ava, starting when she is nineteen and the fear and danger she encounters trying to help her friends and family, to keep them safe.

The underground resistance Ava joins is peppered with real life figures that fought the Nazi regime, who defied Hitler and who would stand their ground to the death to bring about peace in Germany. Figures such as Libertas Schulze-Boysen and her husband, the Abwher and other figures involved in the Valkyrie plot, and resistance movements such as The Red Orchestra, the movement Libertas and her husband, Harro, were a part of are present in the novel, and though the interactions between these characters and Ava, and the Gestapo, the Goebbels and Mildred Harnack, the only American woman executed by the Nazi regime, add an authenticity to the novel, placing it in the time and place effectively.

The style and substance of the narrative marries perfectly with the history behind it, and the pacing is set so well, that as a reader, one is swept away into action and fear, love and family, and at some stages, an uneasy sense of something being over yet something just as horrible, just as traumatising just around the corner. The climatic end of the book has even pacing, and keeps the reader turning the page until the finale, the peace and sorrow that comes from war.

I thoroughly enjoyed the integration of fairy tale, history and imagination in this latest offering from Kate Forsyth. An engrossing read, it was one that I didn’t want to end yet couldn’t wait to see what happened.