TodHunter Moon, book 2
Illustrations by Mark Zug
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
From the dust jacket, “It’s been two months since Alice TodHunter Moon – who insists on being called Tod – left her home in the seaside PathFinder village to pursue a life of Magyk in the Castle. Being Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Septimus Heap is tricky, though—there’s loads of new Magyk to learn, and she dearly misses her friends Oskar and Ferdie. But at least she’s mastered the UnSeen Charm.
“She’s lucky she has, too—that UnSeen will come in handy when she sets out with Oskar and Ferdie on a perilous journey to retrieve the Egg of the Orm from the Desert of the Singing Sands. If they don’t reach the Egg before it hatches, the new baby Orm could imprint on the evil sorcerer Oraton-Marr, giving him unlimited Magyk to do with what he wishes….
“Bursting with humorous and poignant moments, SandRider celebrates the satisfaction of taking charge of one’s path in life—unexpected adventures and all.”
So, you’re probably wondering, what the heck is an “Orm?” An Orm is a gianormous worm who eats solid rock and excretes the gem stone lapis lazuli, which is extremely important for crafting Magyk. When it hatches it’s like a baby dragon but at some point it transforms into a worm. The previous book Pathfinder the saw the egg stolen by the evil sorcerer Oraton-Marr, who wants an unlimited supply of lapis for himself so he can be the most powerful wizard in the world. In SandRider it’s a race against time with the good guys versus the bad guys to get to the Orm first so when it hatches it will imprint for good and not evil.
Another rollicking adventure by Angie Sage that is, at turns, harrowing, frustrating, and exciting. Her new character TodHunter Moon is very likable and the reader roots for her the whole way, hoping she will get to the Orm in time. (I can’t tell you, of course – that would spoil it for those who want to read it!) These stories are well-crafted, fast-paced and once they grab hold you have to keep reading until you get to the end. I’ve already started the third book, StarChaser, and it promises to be just as exciting as the other two.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws because I love a good adventure story with a little mystery and a whole lot of Magyk thrown in!!
Todhunter Moon, Book One
Illustrations by Mark Zug
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
From the dust jacket: “When Alice Todhunter Moon was five years old, she saw a beautiful golden Dragon Boat fly over her Pathfinder village. She knew at once that the boat was Magykal. That was years ago, before her mother died, her father disappeared at sea, and the Garmin took her best friend Ferdie.
“Now it’s up to Tod and Ferdie’s brother Oskar to rescue Ferdie from the Garmins’ keeper, the malevolent Lady. Their journey takes them to the Castle, where they receive help from the ExtraOrdinary Wizard Septimus Heap and ex-ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand. But the Lady’s brother, Darke sorcerer Oraton-Marr, has a plan that will put everyone Tod holds dear in danger. To save her people, Tod must embrace her identity as a Pathfinder and navigate the Ancient Ways, mysterious Magykal paths leading to unfamiliar—and sometimes dangerous—lands.
“Taking place seven years after the story arc of the original bestselling Septimus Heap series, Pathfinder celebrates the joy of discovering one’s own personal Magyk and of choosing the path that lets that Magyk flourish and grow.”
It’s been several years since I read the Septimus Heap series so it was nice to be reunited with some familiar characters in Pathfinder. It’s like being reunited with old friends and the author kindly catches the reader up on what has happened in their lives since the last book ended. But this book is about new characters in the wide orbit of Septimus Heap. We go on an exciting journey with Tod, from her almost idyllic home life, to the mysteries of being a Pathfinder, to the terrible danger of Darke Magyk. The story is immensely readable, full of adventure and magical events. Even if you’ve never read the Septimus Heap books, you’ll find this book entertaining because while it ties in with those previous books, it is also able to stand alone – well, with the other two books in the series! I’m starting the next one tonight and I can wait to find out what happens with Tod, Oskar and Ferdie as they do battle with Oraton-Marr!
Rating 4 out of 5 paws because Angie Sage does not disappoint!
The Sleeper and the Spindle
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015
From the dust jacket: “You may think you know this story. There’s a young queen, about to be married. There are some good, brave, hardy dwarfs; a castle, shrouded in thorns; and a princess, cursed by a witch, so rumor has it, to sleep forever.
“But no one is waiting for a noble prince to appear on his trusty steed here. This fairy tale is spun with a thread of dark magic, which twists and turns and glints and shines. A queen might just prove herself a hero, if a princess needs rescuing. . . . .”
This is definitely not your mother’s fairy tale. Combine Sleeping Beauty with Snow White with a little dark magic thrown in and you’ve got this short story. Well written and beautifully illustrated, you adults may want to read it before letting your kittens have a go at it! There’s nothing bad in it (e.g., sex, violence, bad language); it’s just, shall we say, a bit untraditional when it comes to the princess asleep in the tower. And, the ending doesn’t belong in any Disney fairy tale either. But overall a nice tale freshly woven from old stories; and, who says fairy tale princesses need to be freed by a prince?
Rating: 4 of 5 paws for a unconventional new take on two very old and staid stories.
The Legend of Starfire
Sequel to A Sliver of Stardust
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
From the dust jacket: “All night long my nets I throw/ to the stars in the twinkling foam, / Then up from the waves comes the light I know/ to take me where I want to go.
“A few months ago, the land of Nod was just a name in a nursery rhyme to Wren. But when she discovered the secret magic of stardust, she learned that Nod was real, too. More than a century ago, the evil Magician Boggen was exiled to Nod with his followers. At first their pristine new home, filled with stardust, seemed like paradise. But they were too greedy with their experiments, and now what little stardust remains on Nod is corrupted, slowly poisoning their world.
“Boggen himself tried to escape by returning to Earth. Wren managed to stop him—but now the gateway between the two worlds is damaged, and the corruption of Nod’s stardust is spreading. To save her home Wren will travel farther than even she could have dreamed: to the heart of Nod itself, where she must defeat Boggen once and for all.”
I enjoyed this book more than the first one. It is way more creative and, at least to my reading experience, more original (not so Harry Potterish). As with all books of this type, Wren has to deal with self-doubt and fear and learn to overcome it if she is to save the world. The world the author created on Nod is a mixture of dystopian nightmare and Victorian steampunk – it’s not a bad world to live in, if it weren’t for the cruel overlord, Boggen.
There is much talk of the experiments Boggen does on humans but none of it is ever described; there are hints of violence to 13-year-old Jack – just a mentioning of bruises – but nothing overt or gratuitous. There are several scenes where humans meet with violent deaths but none of it is graphic or gory.
This series of 2 books was an enjoyable read – not as riveting as some I’ve read, but good enough to feel like I didn’t waste my time.
Rating 3-1/2 paws out of 5 because the book was nice to read but not a real page turner.
A Sliver of Stardust
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”
This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.
All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.
So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 paws because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.