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20 Jan 2010

Book Review: Mortlock - Jon Mayhew

"Maybe it was my reading diet as a child, maybe it's just the way I am but my writing always comes out a little bit... dark." - Jon Mayhew

The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible Aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave. Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from its sinister legacy.

I had a lot of fun reading this. Josie is bright and snappy, while Alfie is calm and reasoning - together they make a great team. Though just 13 years old, they go through the very depths of hell, caught up in the whirl-wind of their guardians past of mystery and power. Set in a dark and dangerous Victorian London they are ruthlessly hunted through the streets by the 'Aunts' (who are just down-right creepy) and their ghoulish crow-minions.

There are some parts in the story which are truly frightening and I realised this is becoming a common theme in a lot of younger children's these days - and I think this is a good thing. Kids are growing up in a very different world these days and their capacity of understanding what they see on the television or on the streets is much more than we give them credit for. And that's one of the beauties of books - they not only provide entertainment - they help us understand ourselves, our world around us and even why we do the things we do.

I cannot wait for this book to be released and I do hope there is room for a sequel.

Published by Bloomsbury - April 2010.

12 Jan 2010

Book Review: Temeraire - Naomi Novik

"...he took a liking to me, and we could not risk him refusing the harness from another hand." Laurence, P47

Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancee, society's esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to invade.
After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: A dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence's men must take the beast in hand and join the aviator's cause, thus reliquishing all hope of a normal life.
But when the newly-hatched dragon decides to imprint itself on Laurence, the horrified captain's world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing and soon his beautiful fiancee, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire...

It's been a while since I've read something so refreshing and heart-warming as this. The first book in the Temeraire series sees a massive change in Captain Will Laurence's life. Unwillingly torn away from everything he holds dear - he enters the life of an aviator. Seemingly governed by their own rules - all Laurence knows about them is they are considered outcasts by everyone from the Navy to the common man. So as Laurence is thrust into the deep-end, confused and unsure of what is to become of him, only his bond with Temeraire will pull him through and experience a life that he never imagined.

Novik pulls off quite a balancing act as she tackles both draconic fantasy and Napoleonic history. I've never had much interest in the battle of Trafalgar but while reading this I found myself browsing Wikipedia often to check references, interested in how much of it was truth (and much of it was!). To my surprise I found myself fascinated with the history and it spurred me on with a renewed enthusiasm. Not to mention the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is priceless and one to be experienced. The second book in the series - Throne of Jade - is definitely on my to-read list. Brilliant.

Published by Harper Voyager - March 2006