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Bloomsbury (this edition 2010)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
This is one of those gorgeous Gaiman books that you just have to have, forever, in your bookshelves. You might let the kids read it, but only with clean hands and no food or drink near them! A hardcover reprint edition of this short little book, with new, utterly gorgeous illustrations by Adam Stower, Odd and the Frost Giants captures the eye and imagination in one.
Having seen Gaiman read at the Sydney Opera House (accompanied by a string quartet no less) this year, and having listened to him read the audio version of The Graveyard Book and some of his delightful children’s stories, I now hear Neil’s voice, the lovely cadences and rhythms of his lovely British accent, whenever I read his work. So reading Odd and the Forest Giants was a strange experience, with that voice in my head, but it simply added to my reading enjoyment! The story draws on Norse mythology for its basis, with Neil’s own stroke drawn boldly in the tale of a young man who strikes out to find his own place in his world and comes across three gods trapped in animal form. Odd learns a lot about himself and life as he assists the gods, and in a very compact story, Gaiman imparts a wondeful examination of growing up.
The book is beautiful – an attractive gift option – and the story is beautifully written, heartwarming, sad and entertaining in one package. A definite must for the bookshelf!
Drake Chronicles, Book 2
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Blood Feud is the second volume of the Drake Chronicles. Since the Drakes are a large family – seven boys and one girl in the immediate family alone – and each of the two volumes so far have focused on a different Drake, it’s entirely possible that this could be an extended series. That’s not a bad thing; these are good novels likely to be enjoyed by their young adult target audience. This second novel, however, may be a little less attractive to an older audience than the first one, My Love Lies Bleeding, was.
As the novel opens, Logan Drake’s mother Helena has become a vampire Queen. She didn’t particularly want the job, but it sort of happened in the course of saving her daughter Solange (the full story is detailed in My Love Lies Bleeding). Not everyone wanted her to get the job either, and an assassination attempt occurs early in the preparations for her coronation. Many dignitaries are coming to the coronation. One is Isabeau St Croix, there to represent the Hounds, a reclusive vampire tribe. Isabeau survived the French revolution only to be turned into a vampire, and left in her grave for 200 years until rescued by the Hounds. Now she is one of their Princesses, and sent to Court to negotiate an alliance with the new Queen.
Within moments of arrival Isabeau finds herself negotiating a very informal alliance with Logan Drake. The two of them are instantly and strongly drawn to each other. And it seems that at least one of those with an eye to executing the new Queen is the vampire who turned Isabeau, someone she’d dearly like to meet in a dark alley. So Logan and Isabeau team up to gain revenge and protect their loved ones.
As with the first novel in the series, this is well written. Harvey has thought through the background to her vampires, and added an original twist (that some vampires can be born, due to specific genetic traits, but the children don’t become vampires proper until they reach puberty). Her prose is simple and enjoyable, and she has a good eye for writing action scenes. She also touches on events in the earlier novel without going over them in any detail; new readers won’t be confused and returning readers won’t be bored.
ISBN: 978 1 4088 0212 0
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, May 2010
This is an impressive debut from first-time novelist Jaclyn Dolamore, but it certainly had a journey and a half on publication. After the cover debacle that raged on the Internet over Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, it was quite unbelievable to most that publisher Bloomsbury could turn around and make the exact same mistake AGAIN. The international version of the book originally showed a very light-skinned model on the cover, despite it being made very clear in the book that the protagonist Nimira is “dark and foreign” (p. 5). Furore erupted once again, and once again Bloomsbury pulled the cover, replacing it with a more appropriate model. Clever marketing or complete ignorance, it’s difficult to say, but it did get this book a significant amount of exposure it may not otherwise have garnered as a debut book. It’s worth noting that the Australian cover has avoided the issue entirely (just as Larbalestier’s did) by being a romantic-style artwork instead of using a live model.
Nimira is a “trouser-girl”, an exotically foreign dancer and singer down on her luck. Her life is changed when the upper-class sorcerer Hollin Parry employs her to sing with the automaton he has purchased. Nimira suddenly finds herself in a new lifestyle, with new prospects, but all is not well in Hollin’s house, and certainly not everything is what it seems with the automaton. Nimira soon discovers the secret of the automaton, which throws her newfound happiness into disarry – can Nimira solve the strange mysteries that plague the Parry household and still stay true to herself?
Demon Princess 1
Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, May 2010
This is a tricky one. I started out thinking it was utterly vapid, and I say this as someone who regularly reads Gossip Girl novels for fun. The character seemed shallow, boring and utterly mundane. Supposedly a usual outsider who just happens to have lucked out and made it to the ‘popular’ group at her new school, Nikki struck me as a third rate Bella – pretty, well-off, no problems, and yet has a bit of a self esteem problem to make her seem more human. She’s had a hopeless crush on a boy at school who is perfectly amenable to asking her to the dance. Life is sweet.
Even when the mysterious stranger turned up to tell her she is the long-lost daughter of a demon king, and is about to come into her own demonic powers, I remained unmoved. But slowly, slowly, Nikki started to grow on me. She doesn’t have the wit of Buffy, or the delicious viciousness of Blair and Serena, but she does have horns, and you have to respect that in a girl.
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, March 2010
Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a young adult novel that works very effectively for younger readers, but has a little less to offer to older readers. This is largely because older readers are likely to spot the twist at the end very early on; but in part also because each of the individual stories that make up the novel are likely to seem familiar to older readers.
The story opens in the middle of a vicious storm. Ethan and his younger sister Cathy are violently ill, and their father has left them alone to go and fetch the doctor. In the worst of the storm, a stranger knocks on the door, begging for shelter. Despite his misgivings, the partially recovered Ethan can’t bring himself to refuse anyone shelter on such a night. He allows the stranger entry, and reluctantly agrees to having the visitor tell him and Cathy terrifying tales to pass the time. Ethan and Cathy like scary stories, but some of those the stranger tells scare even them; and Ethan remains uneasy about the stranger’s real intentions.
Drake Chronicles, Book 1
Bloomsbury Children (2010)
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, March 2010
I’m beginning to wish that publishers would stop labelling books “for fans of Twilight” or “for fans of Stephenie Meyer”. I know why they do it, but in a number of cases recently that’s actually sold the novel in question short, as it’s much better than any in the Twilight series. That’s true of My Love Lies Bleeding. Although it features vampires and teenagers, it doesn’t have a lot else in common with Twilight, and it’s a very good novel. I was pleased to find it’s the first in a series.
Solange and Lucy are fifteen, nearly sixteen, and they’ve been best friends for their whole lives despite their differences. Solange comes from a large family, with seven older brothers, while Lucy is an only child. Solange is quiet and reserved, while Lucy is outspoken and bordering on obnoxious. And around the time Solange turns sixteen, she must become a vampire or die. Lucy is an ordinary human.
Harvey has created an interesting addition to the vampire mythology here. While most of her vampires are created in the “usual” fashion – by being turned by another vampire – there are a few very old families which carry a genetic condition which makes their children vampire born. Apparently normal humans until their mid-teens, at that time the condition kicks in and the children must either become vampires (by drinking blood) or die. Solange and her brothers belong to such a family. Her father was vampire born; her mother human, although she became a vampire after Solange’s birth. Apart from the small number of “vampires born”, Harvey sticks pretty close to the traditional mythology around vampires.