Once Upon A Time in the North (#0.5) by Philip Pullman

Published: 8th April 2008Goodreads badge
Knopf Books
Pages: 104
Format: Hardback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

2225238In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby — Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua — is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby’s friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby’s aeronautical career.

After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee’s longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island’s reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy.

This novella is a prequel of sorts to His Dark Materials; it is an episode in the past of characters Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester. It has little to do with the actual trilogy, it is more an expansion at the characters themselves.

The language is beautiful, it is simple, elegant, clever, humerous and sarcastic. Lee is a true gentleman and an honest fighter which adds a great deal of class to the story. The plot itself is one of corruption and scandal, with the right amount of wit and action to make it engaging.

Pullman hides many clues and hints through this story about the armoured bears, about Lee’s past and future, and those who know the references will delight in discovering them. But these clues are not spoilers, nor do they feel out of place in the story. Pullman connects everything remarkably well, but also makes sure the story stands on its own, a story about an adventure in Lee’s past and not a story that acts as an obvious prequel.

Lee’s character is explored in extra detail but he remains the same person we see later in his life. His sense of justice and doing the right thing, as well as the way he assesses people and discovers true intentions with charm and wit. His strong ethics are on show as well which makes the story even more wonderful to read. A lot of this is evident in the trilogy, Lee’s good character shines through remarkably well, but it is great to see it play out in numerous situations and to see it is just as refined when he is younger. In addition, the relationship between Lee and Hester is as always a delight to read about. Hester looks out for Lee and him her, and she is a great asset in everything he does.

The length may be short, but it has everything you need within it. It is complete, complicated, interesting and engaging. There are conflicts and friendship, and a whole world captured with detail and creativity. The design on the book makes it even more fun, not only the additional extras that come with it but the pocket-sized adventure makes it feel like the mini adventure it is supposed to be.

You can purchase Once Upon A Time in the North via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD



Lyra’s Oxford (#3.5) by Philip Pullman

Published: 28th October 2003Goodreads badge
Knopf Books
Pages: 64
Format: Hardback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Lyra’s Oxford begins with Lyra and Pantalaimon spotting a witch’s daemon. Lyra shelters the daemon from the pursuit of a frenzied pack of birds, and then attempts to help by guiding the daemon to the home of an alchemist living in a part of Oxford known as Jericho. The journey through Oxford reveals more dangers than Lyra had anticipated.

This is a great little story and reads just as if it had been plucked from the trilogy itself, Pullman falls back into Lyra’s world wonderfully and from the beginning it’s easy to lose yourself in the world and the characters that are so familiar.

In true Pullman style he holds nothing back and keeps the story as honest and realistic as need be. While it may be a quick story, it is one that is filled with important detail, information, and insight. Lyra is two years older and settling into her life back at Oxford, but Pullman demonstrates that Lyra is still Lyra, while more mature and grown up, wiser and respectful, she is just as curious and just as willing to help.

It’s hard to imagine anything substantial could happen in such a brief snippet of Lyra’s life and yet in a small number of pages, Pullman adds another layer of complexity and mystery to Lyra’s world and her place within it, raising many more questions than answers, making it much more than a short story.

There is a feeling as you read that it’s acting as an introduction into something bigger, whether this will be seen in The Book of Dust is uncertain, but even if it isn’t, the things implied is enough to surprise and mull over, pique interests, and realise that Lyra’s importance and the layers of meaning in the world did not end at the conclusion of The Amber Spyglass.

Pullman manages to provide intrigue and mystery, as well as depth, understanding, and information from the first page to the last. It is a joy to have further closure and new details, no matter how small, and it once again a delight to lose yourself in the world of daemons and Oxford, even if it’s only for 64 pages.

You can purchase Lyra’s Oxford via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

Dymocks | Kobo

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The Watchtower by Darke Conteur

Published: 29th September 2011Goodreads badge
 Self Published
Pages: 90
Format: ebook
Genre: Urband Fantasy/Paranormal/Novella
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

His first day of work wasn’t what Martin Cunningham expected. A sultry boss, a classy receptionist, the drama-queen foreigner, and a painfully shy techie who prefers hiding to human interaction, was the oddest group of characters he’d ever met. When an assassination attempt is made against his new boss, Martin comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares.

Now he and his new co-workers must race to prevent another attack, but where do they start? There’s very little to go on, and the only solid piece of evidence escaped through the u-bend in the toilet. By the end of the day, Martin becomes one of the privileged few who really understands what lies in the shadows, and what it means to work in THE WATCHTOWER

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review

This short urban fantasy novella is filled with magic and magical beings, and an action filled story that throws you into the deep end from the early pages. The story is enjoyable and it is a wonderful concept but being a novella there is not a lot of room to expand and I would have loved more detail about these characters and their abilities. Having said that though, it is a nice quick introduction to each of them and the story acts like a mini adventure before a grander story is to emerge. There is enough to make the story work and make it understandable and being the first in the series more information will no doubt be provided in later books.

The story is fast paced but easy to follow and Conteur has written it well so that Martin’s initiation and confusion about the magical world is realistic but not distracting. From think these people are just quirky colleagues to being suddenly thrown into a situation with dark magic he handles it well and Conteur demonstrates his gradual acceptance suitably, while still maintaining his slight disbelief. It is clear that Martin is often too caught up in the present situation to do any real reflection on what is happening, but when he does it comes across quite naturally and while he thinks the entire thing quite bizarre, there is also no doubting what he sees before his eyes.

The characters are likeable and Conteur has given an introduction to them in a manner that feels real and believable, and fitting to the circumstances. The detail is limited, and being a novella understandable, but there is also enough to grasp who they are and understand their roles. The immediate action that unfolds means there is little time to ponder decisions and people too much but Conteur manages to maintain the story well and not skip information or make the story feel like it has ignored crucial information while still retaining some mystery. As a result getting involved in this story is easy and the intrigue and pull you along with Martin as he discovers who these people are and what kind of job he has signed himself up for.

There is not a long explanation about Terin Global Corporation but Conteur fits information neatly and smoothly into the narrative and dialogue and the reader learns as Martin learns. I enjoyed the mystery and the lack of information at the start because it added to the story. Conteur sets up the workplace as being weird and peculiar and having quirky characters who do not explain things which works well and provides a bit of curiosity. Nothing much is explained to Martin and he gets flung into this strange new job which immediately becomes somewhat bizarre leaving little time to think, yet Conteur is aware not to make Martin too accepting too quickly.

The combination of Greek and Christian ideologies confused me slightly; the fact that both can exist but that Heaven and Hell is more real than The Underworld was interesting. This was a seemingly small part overall but it was curious if it is an introduction to the realities of the world.

The story is a quick read at less than 100 pages and is a decent introduction into the series. The concept is interesting and Conteur delivers a story that is filled with the unknown and the supernatural tied together with action, intrigue, and unique and fascinating magical beings.

You can purchase The Watchtower via the following

Amazon               GooglePlay

Amazon Aust               iTunes

Amazon UK               Barnes and Noble

Amazon CA               Scribd


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Release Day Blitz: The Donor (Part Three) by Nikki Rae

The final installment of Nikki Rae’s new novella The Donor is now available! Soon you will be able to buy them all as one completed story so keep an eye out!

Discover Part One and Part Two!

Check out my reviews of Part OnePart Two, and Part Three!

Grab a copy from Amazon

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Part Three ecover finalCasey may have not known what was in store for her when she met Jonah Black on MyTrueMatch.com, but now that she’s with him, life has become even more unexpected. She’s discovered someone else in the picture and now she cannot figure out how she fits into the puzzle.
Convinced that he doesn’t need her, Casey is torn between giving up and doing whatever it takes to help her family. But Jonah, it turns out, needs her more than she knows.
Time is something neither of them have.
Can they hold each other together as the clock runs out?




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The Donor (Part Three) by Nikki Rae

Published: 30th September 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Self published
Format: ebook
Genre:  Young Adult/New Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  ★  – 5 Stars

[Disclaimer: This is a serial novella that will be told in parts about the length of a short story (20-30 pages)]

Casey may have not known what was in store for her when she met Jonah Black on MyTrueMatch.com, but now that she’s with him, life has become even more unexpected. She’s discovered someone else in the picture and now she cannot figure out how she fits into the puzzle.

Convinced that he doesn’t need her, Casey is torn between giving up and doing whatever it takes to help her family. But Jonah, it turns out, needs her more than she knows.

Time is something neither of them have.
Can they hold each other together as the clock runs out?

Note: I was given a copy of this book to review

This is the final instalment in Nikki Rae’s The Donor novella and it is an excellent conclusion to a great story. The characters really drive this novella and we see them shine once more with Casey’s relationship with Jonah as well as with her family. Even through three short instalments a clear understanding of who these characters are is established. Rae uses her words well and with care and everything has a purpose.

The story follows on from the surprise in part two and it takes the relationship between Casey and Jonah somewhere new and unexpected. There are many surprising revelations but Rae maintains the calm and emotional connection between her characters and uses this to bring more sensitivity and sentiment into the story rather than over the top hype.

When we are first introduced to Casey we are unsure of what her intentions with Jonah are, and with each part we have seen their connection grow, as well as understand more of what their relationship involves. With the conclusion of this novella it is clear there is so much more to learn and it seems Casey is not the only one hiding secrets. Rae manages to change what you thought you knew about Jonah and Casey and transforms this little story into something even better than it was before.

Rae gets you so involved with Jonah and Casey that when the ending comes you are not expecting it. It isn’t that there is anything grand or outrageous in terms of action, but how Rae portrays these characters, each with their own vulnerabilities and insecurities, is great to read. Each part of this story has been a slow emergence of their thoughts and feelings, a gradual intimacy that doesn’t need over the top excitement or extravagances. The two of them together, still so unsure of one another, but still with a strong connection, brings out the best in The Donor and you realise just who these characters are and what they mean to one another and the purpose they bring to each other’s lives.

The ending is ideal. I found a “Wait, what?” escape from my mouth when I realised it didn’t keep going and stops where it does but after I recovered I realised it was the best ending to have, satisfactory but without having to play out everything in detail. Rae’s stories seem to do that, you get so invested into her stories that when the ending comes it is hard to believe they’re over. But they are given the best kind of endings for the story and Rae gives you the pleasure of furthering the story in your mind while not leaving you unhappy or without a solution or answers. Once again The Donor follows suit as Rae manages to conclude this novella with style and in a way that gives you answers but also doesn’t need to wrap everything up perfectly. A great conclusion to a wonderful novella.






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