Every Heart A Doorway (#1) by Seanan McGuire

Published: 5 April  2016 (print)/5 April  2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Tor.com/Macmillan Audio
Pages: 169/4 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Cynthia Hopkins
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

In a premise that reminded me of Miss Peregrine initially, the story is about a girl who arrives at a boarding school for people who have travelled through portals into different worlds – lands of Nonsense, Logic, Fairy – and returned home changed and unsatisfied. Not that that’s what their families are being told.

The story captivates you from the beginning and I was drawn into this world of pretences and misleadings about Eleanor and this boarding school and what it actually did. As the story goes on you learn more about the worlds and the school, about children who have returned from their travels through doorways and how they are coping with being thrust back into their old lives whether by accident or through no choice of their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and the tone McGuire has used – it’s fun and talks to the reader in conversational tones, not nonsensical or anything but matter of fact and with a mix of logic and nonsense while maintaining the seriousness. It’s hard to describe exactly but I loved it immensely.

The mystery was clever and I loved how there was surprises and shocks that come almost immediately changing any theory you may have even started to develop. Each character’s personality brings something to the story and it was hard not to marvel at McGuire’s imagination at these unique characters and their own histories and experiences.

I loved each of the characters we’re introduced to. I don’t want to spoil each of their journeys because I think discovering them is half the fun but I will say there is great representation, there is celebration of the quirky, the unusual, and while kids will always be kids, seeing a place that tries to promote and encourage unusual hobbies, to keep safe those who were cast out, and to embrace the different, was delightful.

I listened to the audiobook which was an excellent decision because it really heightened that unique writing style, and by the end of the book I was enraptured and was surprised how despite being only a short novella it was the perfect length. McGuire told a wonderfully interesting story and gave us detailed and fleshed out characters, a complicated mystery as well as introducing us to this entire new fantasy reality all while keeping it at 175 pages. It’s hard not to marvel at such a feat and I am definitely excited to explore this series and see what else McGuire has in store.

You can purchase Every Heart A Doorway via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase (#2) by Greg Cox

Published: 25th April 2017 Goodreads badge
Tor Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Mystery Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Stories have power.

In 1719, Elizabeth Goose published a collection of rhyming spells as a children’s book, creating a spellbook of terrifying power. The Librarian of that age managed to dispose of all copies of the book except one, which remained in the possession of Elizabeth Goose and her family, temporarily averting any potential disaster.

Now, strange things are happening around the world. A tree-trimmer in Florida is blown off his elevated perch by a freak gust of wind, a woman in rural Pennsylvania is attacked by mutant rodents without any eyes, and a college professor in England finds herself trapped inside a prize pumpkin at a local farmer’s market. Baird and her team of Librarians suspect that the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and with Flynn AWOL–again–it is up to Cassandra, Ezekiel, and Stone to track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed.

I adored the movies and television series The Librarians so finding out there were further adventures in book form was a pure delight and they did not disappoint. They were written while the show was airing with the understanding we know who these characters already are, but they are also whole new adventures for them to go on and mysteries to unravel.

Delving into the realm of nursery rhymes and other literature as if it were real or based on fact has always been a fun topic, I loved seeing it in Jasper Fforde and I loved it here. Of course the history of nursery rhymes is filled with half-truths and unknowns which makes it perfect for the Librarians universe.

All the characters are here – Jenkins, Baird, and the three new librarian recruits and Cox has depicted them as they appear in the show. Their mannerisms, voice, thoughts and style all correspond with the people we’ve been introduced to and even if this is your first introduction to them, there are enough scatterings of information and backstory that you can pieces together who these people are. This is book two officially but can easily be read out of order, as I did while I tracked down book one. There are references to past cases but whether they are in the previous book, in the show, or that happened off screen is unknown but it helps to add to their experience, backstory and their mission.

For a book with some good action scenes, all of which are well written and quite vivid, it is also a slow story of research and piecing together many clues with side quests that prove distracting in a good way. You definitely sense their frustrations of trying to fix one problem when other smaller problems keep popping up to hinder their progress. The Librarians was always about action and drama and chaos and Cox brings this to the page very well. The distribution of research and investigation, coming together into one bigger plot is great and it lets you play along and try and solve the mystery as well, working out what things mean and what piece of information is important.

What I love about these kinds of books is its connection to reality; they try to link it to real people, provide reasons and history about the various artefacts while also keeping the magical element of the Library. Every story, myth or riddle is based on a truth is a good way to look at the Librarians universe and logic so to have rooms filled with tridents and treasure chests, things manifested from rhymes, stories and legends is wonderfully clever and I love it.

The climax and resolution is incredibly clever because it plays on what you know, if you know the Librarians history, but it also allows the possibility of multiple other events and outcomes and trying to work out which one Cox will choose is a fun game on its own. I’m so glad this book lived up to my expectations and gave the perfect balance of mystery, adventure, as well as humour and being delightfully cheesy at times as well. A great addition to the Librarians collection.

You can purchase The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Never and Forever (#4) by Cressida Cowell

Published: 22nd September 2020  Goodreads badge
Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Xar and Wish are on the final leg of their journey. First stop: The Mines of Unhappiness. Here, starvation is never far away for the Magical creatures who toil in its horrible depths. Xar and Wish must escape and fast; Xar needs to take control of his ever-growing Witchstain, and Wish must achieve her Destiny. But the Tazzelwurm is in their way, a grotesque monster who threatens to block every entrance.

Time is not on their side, but the forests are calling them. Will their combined strength be enough for the BIGGEST quest so far; to defeat the Kingwitch once and for all?

With this being the final book in the Wizards of Once series I am a little sad it’s ending. I liked reading about Wish and Xar and their mismatched merry band of adventures but Cowell gives them a fitting send off and brings together everything that has been building up over the last three books. There are perils and sacrifices, magical powers and other things even more powerful at play and seeing our young heroes face these challenges and go against the odds is fantastic.

The whole series is about finding one’s true worth and capabilities and with the right guidance, gentle encouragement and positive reinforcements it shows how powerful that can be. The negativity of parents and evil doers in the story have been pushed against from the start and the contrast with characters who have faith and trust in Wish and Xar are a great example of nurturing giving the best results.

There are a lot of lessons learnt in this final story and the misjudgements and criticisms by characters are altered – which have been pointed out through the whole series by the narrator and other characters, but having it acknowledged is an important step. Cowell doesn’t do an immediate flip of opinion, she uses the characters to admit mistakes, realise where they’ve gone wrong, but she doesn’t redeem them entirely either which I found a great move because one small action can’t change a lifetime of habits.

Wish is still a stubborn and determined force as the fight to defeat the Kingwitch continues and it’s great to have her courage grow and see her seek guidance from those around her. Xar is wonderfully flawed in his own way – yet he is loyal and brave and seeking the approval of those around him. Cowell’s done a great job through this whole series showing that trying and failing is not worth nothing, and that the adventure and the experience can change you for the better despite any misgivings or mistakes. She also never makes us forget they are still children but the mission and the importance of success is a strong driving force and doing the right thing is what matters.

The unknown narrator once again is fantastic in their observations about children and adults, about responsibilities and doing the right thing. We do find out who this unknown entity has been the whole time and while it was an interesting surprise, I didn’t feel it overly remarkable.

I read the paperback version this time round and got to experience Cowell’s illustrations throughout. Her style is fascinating because it is simple but rough and complicated and I love her designs of the characters and creatures. With the paperback you miss out on the delightful David Tennant narrating but you get the two page spread of illustration and Cowell’s use of dark pages and sketches.

It’s a gripping and satisfying conclusion to this series. There are a lot of players by the end but Cowell balances it well and each gets their own ending and role to play. It wouldn’t be a Cowell story with some heartbreaking moments amongst those of triumph and while I didn’t start crying, there is no doubt she has power in her words that on the surface look whimsical and silly, but look closer and you can see commentary about love and justice, about bravery and believing in yourself. Also the failures of adults and the imperfections of the world and family.

I know there are mixed reactions to the final chapter and I’m torn about how I really feel about it – I liked it in some ways but I understand the criticism as well. It shoehorns the story but it is also a nice hint at future events. I agree on some level it was unnecessary but I can see what Cowell was trying to do. I only wish she’d known that her stories are wonderful and powerful enough without needing to end it how she did. In a way it takes away all the effort, creativity and uniqueness of the previous books.

Overall though, it is a beautiful story of found family with magic and adventure from the beginning until the very end.

You can purchase Never and Forever via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Long Lost Review: To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015 Goodreads badge
Hot Key Books
Pages: 504
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy/Short Stories
★   ★  ★  ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Nix has always been a masterful storyteller and these short stories are evidence of that. In a single story that focuses on one moment in time, Nix has the ability to give you an entire understanding of the world with only a few words and in doing so you gain total comprehension of what this world is like and who these characters are.

I loved the diversity and similarities in the stories, and I loved that they captivate you from the first sentence, drawing you in. It is always fantastic to return to the Old Kingdom and the story of the bridge is wonderful, but the short stories are pretty amazing as well. Set across different genres and eras Nix’s voice is through all of them and it’s amazing to see his twists on genre, well-known stories and mythologies.

Across the 18 stories there are vampires, unicorns, spies and legendary kings to name a few, as well as further stories about Nix’s own work. The way Nix mixes together multiple elements and builds them into the new story is incredible and seeing the familiar references or inspiration throughout shows off how clever he can be.

I love everything Nix does and with a collection like this it goes to show that my admiration isn’t unsubstantiated.

You can purchase To Hold the Bridge via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Knock Three Times (#3) by Cressida Cowell

Published: 17th September 2020 (print)/2nd June 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Hodder Children’s Books/Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 384/ 6 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: David Tennant
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Xar and Wish are heroes with a huge task ahead–confronting the Nuckalavee is not for the faint hearted. But with Magic and Iron together, they might just have a chance of saving their beloved homes from those who seek to destroy everything they hold dear. The third electrifying book in The Wizards of Once series fizzes with magic and introduces us to a host of glorious new characters: bears and piskies and magical pins and needles to name but a few.

There is something wonderful about Cowell’s stories. I love her writing and the language she uses, the way it’s telling us a story and the voice brings cheekiness and drama, but also a type of sorrow as well. The matter of fact approach to narration is an extra delight and it’s the combination of all of these types of writing that make this series so enjoyable.

Cowell balances the silly and the quirky with the serious and the dangerous. The world she has created flips from fun to dangerous easily and the suspense and tension over what is going to happen remains even while there are jokes flying about and quirky characters around.

I think this may be my favourite out of the three, there is so much going on and the humour and plot is on point and every character plays a role. There is adventure and revelations, fun times and sadness, and I adore how Cowell can make serious topics fit so beautifully in amongst a seemingly light hearted fantasy story.

There is a more in-depth look at both Sychorax and Encanzo and their relationship and histories, as well as the origin of the Wizard/Warrior feud. We also see a greater insight into the supporting characters that surround our two heroes. Their own stories get some attention and in doing so broadens our understanding of the world.

I know I say this every time, but David Tennant’s narration is once again pure and magical. He should be in charge of narrating all the books for the rest of time. Cowell’s writing is already fun and full of wit but Tennant’s delivery and inflection bring it off the page and it sucks you into the story so well.

As the penultimate book in the series Cowell is building up to a grand finale and with all that happens and is revealed in this book I can only imagine what is coming for the grand conclusion. This series is all about mischievous children, long standing feuds, curses, magic and adventure. It’s also filled with wit, charm, and sorrow making it a beautifully complex story about a complex world filled with complex characters and it’s an utter delight to read about.

You can purchase Knock Three Times via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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