Ludwig Von Guggenstein is the son of a rich inventor and lives in a castle where the pair of them tinker about creating things to help with farming or mining, all kinds of things. The pair are on the verge of a great discovery when the build a robot which lacks just one tiny spark of life to make it work. A terrible death in the village is about to reveal shocking truths for Ludwig for when his father takes the suddenly functioning machine to the city the young boy discovers that he has a long lost brother who lives in the basement. …. is a huge, hulking creature but has a kind heart so it’s a shock when their father returns and tries to shoot him. The two brothers escape and run away before being picked up by a travelling circus run by the Captain. This frightening man is to be their saviour as he takes them to their grandmother.
There is to be no safety for anyone now though as it is revealed that the baron has created an entire army of robots from the souls of the dead and plans to lead them to conquer the world. The one thing he wants above all is Ludwig and he is prepared to do anything and kill anyone to have his way. When the boy is captured his brother and allies must race against time to rescue him and somehow destroy the Baron Von Guggensteins plans before he crushes them all!
I have to admit that when this book was described as being of the steampunk genre I had no idea what would arrive on the doorstep. After reading the book it seems to be anything containing the weird and the wonderful and mixes the cogs and wheels of machinery with 80’s pop culture. In fact it reminds me a lot of Philip Reeves’ Mortal Engines series but for younger readers.
There are a few blips on the horizons, you might say that the book is somewhat rushed and doesn’t really leave much space for character development or give an insight into their emotions. The story also feels perhaps a tad unsure at times as it hurtles along but these are minor problems and easily forgiven in a debut novel that are mentioned mainly out of a need to be critical. In fact the only real disappointment was the cover of the uncorrected proof which doesn’t really inspire you to pick it up.
Haywired is an enjoyable read and the problems mentioned before merely add to the pace of the story. It is one hundred percent action adventure as Ludwig and his brother hurtle around the countryside of two different fictional countries being pursued by hordes of malevolent and very violent robots. Despite a youngish targeted age range there is quite a high body count but it isn’t gory or bloody and most of the deaths happen off camera as it were.
This is an exciting and fun light read for those who like their books adventurous and action packed with as little as possible of the soppy stuff. It’s also the first book of a series so new fans will be pleased to know there is at least one more adventure on the cards for Ludwig.
Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale
Set in 1929 in a Britain still heavily influenced by the First World War, this is the story of an eleven year old boy called Johnny Swanson who lives with his mother, Winnie, in a small town. His father died in the war before Johnny was even born so money is tight for the pair even with Johnny’s paper round for the local shop. When the local landowner Mr Bennet increases the rent on their home the young hero knows he has to do something and this is when we find out Johnny isn’t a normal young boy.
After falling victim to an advert scam in the local paper which cost him three shillings for the supposed secret of Instant Height, Johnny takes the experience to heart and launches a massive campaign to rob the misguided public. Soon adverts such as Free yourself from noisy neighbours (move house) or Get into films (go to the cinema) are littering local and national papers. His idea is such a success that Johnny has to create a whole mountain of lies to keep the truth from his mum and his boss at the post office. We all know that lying is bad and it’s a lesson that Johnny learns the hard way when kindly Dr Langford, for whom Winnie works, is murdered and it seems that all the lies and deceit have made the boys’ mother the chief suspect. With his innocent parent in jail Johnny must find the real culprit if he’s going to save her from the hangman’s noose.
Johnny Swanson is a brilliant book for many reasons. We all look back on the early part of the last century almost wistfully as a time when society was kinder and life more genial. This book reveals a harsher side with most of its characters leading a life damaged in some way by the war and where bullying and unkindness still play a large role. One passage in particular reveals the harshness of Johnny’s situation as the mob turn against him and his mother, breaking windows, stealing and resorting to violence. There is still an underlying kindness to the story however, in particular portrayed by the Doctor, Hutch the post office worker who takes Johnny in when everyone else hates him and by the hero himself.
The plot itself is clever and inventive and plays heavily on issues of the time with the development of the vaccine for TB playing a large part in the murder. The killer is totally unexpected and gives the story a new and exciting twist that leaves you fearing for Johnny’s life and Eleanor Updale has done a great job of keeping the suspense and intrigue going despite the length of the book.
This is a clever, funny story which is so well researched and written that you’ll almost believe yourself to be in post First World War England beside the likable character of Johnny. You’ll learn a few things here about the importance of honesty and responsibility which is just as well because Johnny’s advert scam looks like a real money spinner!
Our thanks to David Fickling Books for sending us a copy
Space Crime Conspiracy by Gareth P Jones
Life isn’t great for thirteen year old Stanley Bound. Disliked and rejected at school and living with a grumpy brother who thinks he’s a thief, he dreams of far away places and adventure. The sort of adventure he’s thinking of however is a lot different from the one he’s about to have.
Some strange men are looking for Stanley, one of them keeps his hat under his chin and a beard on his head and it’s as two of these characters are chasing the young hero that he dives into a police car and his life is turned upside down. This policeman is covered in hair and he’s not from earth and they suddenly blast of into space it turns out neither is his car. It would seem that Stanley is famous all over the universe as the boy who killed President Vorlugenar, the most important man ever.
The thing is Stanley has never left England let alone the planet so he couldn’t have done it which is why it’s very strange that the murder was caught on camera. Somehow he’s going to have to prove his innocence while avoiding getting himself killed in a large number of extraordinary and mad scrapes as he meets the most bizarre bunch of characters you’ve ever encountered.
No matter what you think of this book (which is great by the way) you have to give the author credit for his incredible imagination. Everything from the characters to the plot is weird and wonderful and it makes for an exciting and fun read. Stanley encounters a talking mushroom, bird-headed pirates, an eccentric professor with a huge head and the Planner, a super-machine that speeds up evolution by enhancing your natural abilities. This incredible machine belongs to the Armorians who rule the universe due to the powers gained by its use; who could be more powerful than a race where singers can sing four-part harmonies on their own and teachers have eyes in the back of their heads?
You have to love Gareth Jones’ book for its fantastical and crazy goings on as the author stretches credibility and your imagination to its very limits while Stanley is dragged on a journey to clear his name of murder. Don’t expect any time to gather your wits and take a breath because the pace to this story is phenomenal, which unfortunately occasionally leads to you losing the thread a little. The plot is clever and expect the unexpected as all is revealed at the end but the best bit is that there is a definite opening for a second book as the book finishes on a bit of a loose end with the sight of more adventure ahead.
Our thanks to Bloomsbury for sending us a copy
Glitter by Kate Maryon
Liberty Parfitt leads a life that many girls can only dream of; daughter of a rich father, she spends her week at an elite boarding school with her friends and the weekends riding horses, driving in limousines and taking tea at the Ritz. Life isn’t perfect for Libby though as she struggles with a stern father who believes academic performance is more important that Libby’s love of the violin. Despite this setback Liberty lives a comfortable life and is certain that things will continue as they are.
That certainty is snatched away when her father’s business succumbs to the credit crunch. Suddenly, Liberty is swept from the safety of her school life into a dingy flat, forced to spend all her time with a father who is remote, distant, cold ad likely to explode into anger at the slightest provocation. Added to this, Liberty is expected to attend the local state school, full of violent pupils who seem to be nothing like her. Things take a turn for the worse when Libby offends Tyler, the toughest kid in school and also gets involved in the drama department, an absolute no-no in her father’s eyes. However hard she tries Libby just can’t get used to this new life, to living with her depression struck father and, worst of all, she must contain her passion for the violin. The pressure builds until something has to give, but will it be her relationship with her father or her passion for her music?
Glitter is a marvellous book, similar in subject matter to Jacqueline Wilson but with a more mature and descriptive writing style which I loved. Liberty is a fantastic multi faceted character, beginning as a cowed underdog and developing in confidence as the story progresses. There is more to her than this though and you can clearly see her frustrations in the way she occasionally acts out. This is mirrored in a father could easily have been just a shouting voice, a plot device but in Kate Maryon’s hands he develops into a living, breathing character. She shows both his anger and his suffering, allowing a better look at his personality as a whole. This allows the reader to see the cause and effect of actions, something that is a rare find in books for this age range. The author also manages to avoid the pitfalls of stereotypes - the richer set aren’t all self centred people on horses and the inner city kids aren’t all stealing cars and being disrespectful (although there are elements of both). This honesty is a well thought out novel.
Kate Maryon injects a great deal of emotion in Libby’s search for information about her mother and tears may well up at some points in the tale. I firmly believe the author is a great talent and a future bestseller as she has written in Glitter a wonderfully gripping story that treats her audience as intelligent young people.
Our thanks to Harper Collins for our review copy.
Magical Mischief by Anna Dale
Harbattle Bookshop used to be a normal, everyday sort of bookshop before the magic moved in. Run by the elderly Mr Hardbattle, whose aversion to hovering made his store the perfect place for magic to live, the shop went from being fairly successful to being one of the strangest shops around. At first it was just a horrible smell but soon books started rearranging themselves and then bookends came to life. Mr Harbattle, although it caused chaos to his business, was a kind old man and saw no reason to remove the magic from its new home despite plummeting customer numbers.
Ten years later however and the rent for the shop has been hugely increased by the new owner and Mr Hardbattle must either move the magic or leave. Enter young Arthur and Miss Quint, two customers who are determined to help their friend out. Together they place an advert in the papers asking for someone willing to re-home the mischievous magic before Mr Hardbattle takes a tour of homes of anyone who responded. While he is away things begin to go dramatically wrong when Miss Quint wishes for characters from some of the books to come alive. These new apparitions soon begin to run amok throughout the town, stealing people’s valuables and causing chaos. Somehow they must be stopped and a new home found for the magic before the criminals are discovered by the police and the rent deadline runs out.
Magical Mischief is populated with quaint and charming characters, from the human ones such as Arthur to the stuffed elephant toy waiting for its owner. All of them are delightful and interesting with their different quirks and failings. Miss Quint in particular is a born trouble maker and it’s her numerous misjudgements that drive the story forward. Even the magic has something of a personality as it throws temper tantrums or parties.
The plot is also cleverly worked and at no point will you feel tired or bored as the characters skip from one shambles to another, more often than not with some sort of destruction involved. The final twist is unforeseen and when the end comes there is a real tinge of sadness that might mare the finale for someone who likes a happy ending.
It’s fair to say that Magical Mischief is funny, original and full of old school charm and it was a real pleasure to read. Definitely a must read.
Our thanks to Bloomsbury for sending us a copy.
Striker: Sudden Death by Nick Hale
Jake Bastin is the son of former England football legend Steve who now works as a successful club manager. He thought he had it tough at school and coping with divorced parents but on the day he finds out his father is in talks to manage the newly created Russian team the St Petersburg Tigers, the agent he is talking to suddenly dies in mysterious circumstances. Things are only about to get worse as they narrowly survive a plane crash on their way to Russia and from there on in the body count starts to grow as a mystery man is killing off anyone in his way. The problem is, Jake not only doesn’t know what the reason is behind all this, but anyone could be the criminal, even his father! Stuck in a deadly fight for his life in an unwelcoming country and with nobody to turn to, Jake somehow has to unravel their plans and save the day, even if the enemy is his own Dad.
The blurb tells us that this is a mixture of football and crime fighting but the sport aspect if very minor and mostly supplies a reason for Jake to be in Russia. Anyone who thought Jake would be scoring goals by day and fighting bad guys by night will be slightly disappointed I’m afraid. The emphasis is instead wholly on the action and spy-like endeavours of the young hero. He saves lives, fights bad guys and scales vast buildings all in the space of just a few days! There is no time to pause as a lightning fast sequence of events take place with Jake’s life in danger at every turn and it makes for an exciting read that culminates with an unforeseen plot twist.
On the other hand the story is rather lightweight and the main character is far from likable as he sulks and strops his way around. His attitude causes more than a few problems and even results in a death. Unlike Alex Rider who outwits his enemies or uses a series of clever gadgets, teenager Jake unrealistically beats up a large amount of beefy and probably highly trained, security guards.
Striker is a decent light read if you’re after something action-packed with no questions asked and should be a decent book to try on reluctant readers. Unfortunately it could have been better but there is a good chance that all the kinks will have been ironed out in the second book of the series.
Our thanks to Egmont for sending us a copy.
Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy
Anya and her family have left their home in Poland to find a new life for themselves in Liverpool. She has dreamt of a life in England for a long time but when she arrives, Anya finds that English life is not all she had imagined. Her class mates are less than respectful and she finds it difficult to cross the language barrier. Strangest of all is Dan, the boy who set fire to his work at his desk, causing panic. Life is not at all as she imagined it would be.
Over time her language skills improve and Anya finds friends in Frankie and Kurt, a couple of misfits who are nevertheless the friendliest people she has met. They come across Dan, strange and scary Dan, wearing a pair of angel wings and handing out leaflets for free cakes at his mother’s new cake shop. Anya begins to see there is another side to Dan and that his life, like hers, might not be as carefree as it seems. Anya and Dan form a friendship; Dan showing Anya the Liverpool that she had imagined and Anya showing Dan that not everyone has written him off. Things start to spiral downhill quickly when Anya’s father and Dan’s mother both run into business trouble. Anya’s family must return to Poland and Dan’s family is falling apart. Can their fledgling relationship survive?
Cathy Cassidy has written a great book here, with a cast of quirky characters that you can nonetheless relate to perfectly. The supporting cast of characters are really well written, with just a few lines on each enough to give each one an added dimension. If this is true of the minor characters, its more so when it comes to Anya and Dan. Both are such solid characters, they’re an absolute joy to read. The issues they face are also interesting and will appeal to fans of authors such as Jacqueline Wilson. Don’t be fooled by the pink and fluffy cover, the binding holds a well written, substantial and thoroughly enjoyable story.
Our thanks to Puffin for sending us a copy.
Legands! Beast & Monsters + Battles & Quests by Anthony Horowitz
A long, long time ago…. Back in the mists of the past…. One man rewrote ancient legends and stories so that they may be more accessible for a younger audience…. That man was Anthony Horrowitz….
Unfortunately nobody had heard of him back then before the days of Alex Rider and the stories never really caught the public eye. Horrowitz has since tweaked his old stories and MacMillan has rereleased them with the first two books of the series, Beast and Monsters and Battles and Quests. These books each contain half a dozen short tales based on old myths and legends from all round the world. The author has reworked them and given his own spin to them but many will still be instantly familiar,the tale of the Minotaur or of Remus and Romulus, for example.
Chiefly with an eye on young male readers, Horrowitz has attempted to liven up these old stories that were often told in ponderous language with more modern twists, a faster pace, a few jokes and loads of gore. To a certain extent this policy works as he pays little reverence to the originals by cutting swathes of the more long winded section in order to stick a lot more with the action.
Despite all this, or maybe because of it, these tales leave something to be desired. For one thing, the jokes aren’t funny, not even in the most childish way. The writing style isn’t very polished and you can easily imagine these were written in a hurry as a small side project and there is little to remind you that the same author created the Alex Rider series.These books have to be taken for what they are and appreciated for it. They are bringing a touch of world culture to young readers for who these sorts of tales are not easily accessible. With the target audience of under twelves who are reluctant readers, they should do a good job of grabbing their attention and hopefully keeping it. Our thanks to Macmillan for sending us a copy.
Killer Strangelets by C T Furlong
In the first few chapters of Killer Strangelets three things will happen. First of all we will get a preview of the possible last minutes of the universe, secondly a man will be kidnapped at gun point and last but not least... our hero Iago will begin to realise that the feelings he has for the pretty Charlie are stronger than those of just friendship.
That’s the very beginning of the book and it’s fair to say that at no point from there on will the pace of this plot relent. Iago’s father has been kidnapped after being mistaken for his twin brother who is a very clever scientist. Before Uncle Jonas is marched away by MI6 he manages to reveal to the children, Iago, his sister Aretha, his cousins Cam, Renny and Tara and his friend Charlie, that the kidnapping has something to do with work on the Large Hadron Collider. It would seem that a mad scientist is bent on destroying the world by creating a huge black hole and only Uncle Jonas’ emergency shutdown device can stop it from happening. There’s nothing for it but for the six, the Arctic 6, to travel to Switzerland and put a stop to her evil plans and rescue Iago’s father.
Some James Bond like plans and some high-tech wizardry involving lots of phones get the kids into the lab but at the end there is only one thing that can save the world and that’s you. Iago’s message is beamed round the world so that everyone can take action before it’s too late.
I’ve mentioned it before but must say again, the pace to this book is truly phenomenal! The story is short but by the end you’ll feel more out of breath than if you’d ran round the Hadron Collider. The only pause during the entire thing is a toilet break so that everyone can clear themselves up a bit before once again hurtling on. Our heroes face all kinds of challenges, from the evildoers who plan to destroy the world, to breaking into top security buildings. Killer Strangelets is action packed from start to finish but what makes it different is the heavy emphasis on the technological side of things.The children are all equipped with the latest of mobile phones but they manage to use them for all sorts of unusual things, such as contacting hackers to turning the direction of a satellite in space, before finally harnessing the power of millions of homes in an effort to halt the world’s destruction. Add this to the pretty in-depth discussions about the workings of the Hadron Collider and you’ll find this book is surprisingly informative as well as being entertaining.
Some great characters, a budding love scene, plenty of adventure and a lot of laugh out loud quips make this a pretty satisfying read from a first time author, despite some rather confusing moments which could possibly be avoided with experience. If the Famous Five had been born today this is what they would have been like, minus the dog. A great read to take on your summer holidays that will keep young readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Our thanks to Inside Pocket for sending us a copy.
Review by James@KidsCompass.
Pip: The Story of Olive by Kim Kane
Olive is an odd little girl which is no surprise given her odd family. Her father, WilliamPetersMustardSeed, is absent and that leaves just her and her mother, Mog, who is a very successful Magistrate. Together they live in a big messy house. Olive’s only friend at school is Mathilda who comes from a very different family, full of siblings, the hustle and bustle of family life and all the normality that Olive doesn’t have. Mathilda’s family bake cakes, go for picnics and have birthday parties, all the things a busy mother and an absent father cannot supply.
Despite all this Olive gets through life pretty well until the day Mathilda swaps her for the coolest, prettiest girl in school and Olive ends up alone. On that very day Pip shows up. The two girls look exactly the same but whereas Olive is quiet and shy, Pip is bold and exciting. Together, the two form the perfect team and before long Olive’s newly appeared twin starts to rub off on her. The pair are ready to take on the world and right all the wrongs from our heroine's life and it’s not long before others begin to see this other side of Olive.
This is a very clever story from an excellent writer, which despite the book’s recent release still has the feel of a classic. There is a real journey to be made for the main character here with all the emotional twists and turns necessary of a great coming of age novel. Olive and Pip are two sides of the same coin and their personalities are brilliantly interwoven to create a fantastic duo who complement each other perfectly. It’s this pairing that means the book never gets to be anything less than absorbing.
Their story is warm and funny but when necessary tugs at the reader's heartstrings when you realise just what a sad life Olive leads. The book’s realism means that it reads beautifully and turns an already good book into a great one. A real gem of a novel which is both hilarious and startlingly honest in it’s ruthless depictions of the lonely life a child can lead.
Our thanks to Random House for sending us a copy.
Review by James@KidsCompass.
The Eyeball Collector by F.E Higgins
Hector Fitzbaudly’s adventure takes place in the gloomy and stinking city of Urbs Umida sometime, we assume, around the 19th century. Up until now our young hero has lived a life of leisure and is badly prepared for the day when it will all crumble around his ears. A seedy character named Gulliver appears in the city and first blackmails his father before then ruining him completely. The strain is too great for the old man and within a few days he is dead, leaving young Hector alone, destitute and struggling to survive on the streets. He finds refuge at a home for orphaned boys and begins to plot his revenge.
Meanwhile Gulliver has spent his money wisely and set himself up as the rich and fashionable Baron Bovrik, taking the city by storm. He has recently insinuated himself into the household of the rich and beautiful Lady Mandible who is in need of a butterfly expert for a special party she is organising. Hector, whose father was a dedicated collector of the insects, is more than qualified for the job and finds himself nestled within the same walls as his deadly enemy. What starts out as a simple plot for revenge soon turns into something much more dangerous when some strange and evil events start to unfold within the great house and our young hero finds himself trapped within a web of deceit far bigger than he could have imagined.
The world of The Eyeball Collector is a dark and gloomy place full of the weird and the grotesque. Strangest of all is that the vileness doesn’t come from some unnatural monster but from humankind, which was unexpected in a children’s book. In some ways it was reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray though obviously toned down for the age range. The author’s description of the goings on among his worlds upper classes bring to life a society plagued with too much money and time where nothing is to depraved as long as it brings relief from their boredom, which was again a little unexpected in a book of this type, but added something to the story.
It is a shame therefore that it feels almost like an anti-climax at the end of the story. After all the build up you expect some huge, dramatic scene to tie it all together. Things do finish with a bang and a few murders but it somehow didn’t feel like quite ghastly enough and left the hero more as an unfortunate observer and less as an active part of the plot. This leaves you with a vague sense of dissatisfaction as events that piqued your interest were cast to one side and never spoken of again. On top of this the butterfly scheme for revenge, while clever, lacks real drama and is at the end almost pointless anyway.
The Eyeball Collector is an interesting story and should appeal to all fans of the dark and gloomy, it’s just a bit of a shame about the end.
Our thanks to MacMillan for sending us a copy.
Review by James@KidsCompass.
The Death Stalkerby Gill Harvey
In this fourth adventure for Isis and Hopi the pair are involved in a thrilling mystery surrounding a regiment of soldiers recently arrived in the city. The army has returned victorious after defeating a group of travelling Libyans and have taken many prisoners, which they keep locked up. Isis and the dancing troupe are to perform to the officers as they celebrate but Hopi is entrusted with the care of a young soldier badly wounded and on the brink of death. This man seems to be suffering from a guilty conscience and claims his injuries are a punishment from the gods, while in the camp itself Isis begins to uncover a nasty fate in store for one of the prisoners involving a mysterious pit. As Hopi struggles to save his soldier and Isis to help a young prisoner, the deadly secret behind the regiment and its officers begins to surface and it’s not long before Hopi’s talent for handling poisonous scorpions will be severely needed.
As with the previous books in the series this is a very atmospheric book, evocative of the sun and sand of the Egyptian desert. The author once again displays a terrific knowledge of ancient Egypt and many of the cultural aspects of its society. This is also a tad more exciting than the last book with a stronger sense of danger and excitement surrounding the plot and characters. Despite that the story still remains simple. Many of the events should be exciting but the author doesn’t manage to give any the plot much menace and instead of events erupting with a bang, they occur with a bit of a whimper. The characters are also rather difficult to empathise with due to the rather stiff writing style which makes it difficult for the reader to empathise.
This is a fairly short story easily accessible to young readers but unless they have a real passion for the society of Ancient Egypt it’s hard to think of what else might appeal to them.
Our thanks to Bloomsbury for sending us a copy
Review by James@KidsCompass.
Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney
Three awe-inspiring heroes are journeying through the jungle in a search for treasure and glory; the half-elf Sebastien, the great but tiny warrior Cornelius and the hulking, talking buffalope Max… Well they may not be that inspiring but they definitely are fun and their third adventure is just as exciting and entertaining as their last ones.
The book opens with our heroes cutting through the jungle until they are brutally attacked by the evil and foul race of the Gorgrath. Luckily for them they are saved by the Jilith tribe who have an ancient prophecy concerning a certain half-elf that tells of his great victory of the Gorgrath and therefore the salvation of the tribes-people. There is also the matter of the Chief's beautiful daughter, Keera, who has taken quite a shine to our young hero and hears wedding bells in the air.
Sebastian is the least likely of all people to lead an army, so up steps Cornelius who plans to annihilate the Gorgrath entirely in exchange for information on the location of the lost city of Mendip. Needless to say our heroes conquer, thanks to the fearsome and gassy Max and some quick thinking, and it’s not long before they are on the trail again, accompanied by Keera and a few Jilith.
But the trio are unaware of a terrifying curse laid upon the city and their destination swarms with the un-dead who hunger for fresh victims. It’s going to take a lot of courage and more than a little luck for them to escape alive.
What I like most about the Sebastian Darke series is how light hearted and yet exciting the adventures can be. From the first page to the last it’s full of action and comedy. The heroes are swashbuckling swordfighters (apart from Max who uses his horns) who face horde after horde of monsters intent on destroying them. These enemies are suitably ferocious and grotesque and the un-dead were surprisingly scary! There are epic battles, fierce beasts to hunt and terrifying flights through dark jungles, everything a child could ask for to get imaginations flowing. There is also an emphasis in the more humorous side of the story, in particular with Max. The huge buffalope moans and complains almost constantly and when he isn’t he’s breaking wind or eating, probably at the same time. It’s also interesting to see the effects of strong drink on him. Despite this he is a very likable character, as are all three main charactrs and together they form the almost perfect group with all the right dynamics.
Prince of Adventurers is a great book for a little bit of light reading when you’re in need of adventure and excitement. I’m not exactly sure about the role women play within it as they seem somewhat marginalised and in need of rescuing but by the end all I wanted to do was but a saucepan upside down on my head, grab a stick and charge around the garden!
Our thanks to Random House for sending us a copy.
Review by James@KidsCompass.
Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
The release of the final book in a series as great as the Percy Jackson books is always a sad event as well as an exciting one. Rick Riordan has pulled out every single stop to make this as climactic as possible as Percy faces the showdown with the Titan, Kronos. The final battle between the Greek Gods and the Titans is fast approaching, as is Percy’s birthday. An old prophecy declares that on his sixteenth birthday a young demigod will be forced to make a decision that will change the fate of the world. In the meantime however he has a few trifling matters to deal with, such as finding out how to kill an invincible god, escaping prison in Hades, diffusing arguments between demigods and sorting out exactly what his feelings are for Annabeth.
While the huge, monstrous Titan Typon storms across America towards New York, Percy and forty of his fellow heroes and demigods must defend Mount Olympus from Kronos’ final assault. Percy risks a dip in the river Styx and becomes almost invincible himself, but the odds still seem impossibly long. Standing against him is an army of monsters and ancient legends, from the Minotaur to the fearsome Drakon as well as the fearsome scythe-wielding Kronos himself. Tension mounts to breaking point as Percy stands face to face with unbeatable foes.
There’s a reason for the incredible popularity of the Percy Jackson series and why a film adaptation has recently been released and it’s this: when it comes to action and heroism you simply don’t get much better than this. Bringing the ancient Greek legends into the modern setting was a stroke of genius as it brings some of history’s most feared monsters and demons back to life. It also gives one teenage boy superpowers a huge sword with which to kill them.
With this being the last book there is the inevitable showdown between good and bad and be assured that it is suitably epic. The streets of New York are turned into a battlefield as monsters and demigods clash violently but without the gruesomeness you may expect. The huge varieties of creatures from centaurs to hellhounds merely dissolve into dust when killed and will eventually come back to life. Humans are also kindly taken to a warrior paradise when they die and so despite the huge body count, death never becomes overwhelming.
It seems that Percy has come to the end of his adventures, one way or another, but thankfully the ending hints at another series to come. Whether our hero figures in them or not only time will tell. Our thanks to Puffin for sending us a copy.
Review by James@KidsCompass.
Candle Man by Glenn Dakin
Every teenage boy dreams of adventure but for Theo that dream is about to come true. For years he has been locked away in the house of his guardian, Dr Saint. Due to a supposed rare illness he has stayed in the same three rooms and only ever seen the same three people; the Doctor, the butler Mr Nicely and the servant girl Clarice. Everything changes when burglars break into his home and Theo mysteriously melts one of the men with his bare hands, which he has up to now been forced to keep gloved. The very next day he is rescued by the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, a group dedicated to fight the evil Society of Good Works run by Dr Saint who plan to take over the world and commit “good deeds” on everyone. This society, comprised of an old man, a gangly youth and an all-action heroine called Chloe, claim that Theo is the key to halting their nemesis. There is also the matter of the link between Theo and an old crime fighting hero, the Candle Man. So while the boy is desperately trying to find clues to his past and working out his role in the future, he is whisked across London from one safe-haven to another while doing battle to endless hordes of bad guys. Grotesque monsters, extinct animals, ghosts, ghouls, muscle bound gunmen and an evil character known as the Dodo are just a few of his enemies. It looks like glowing hands that have the power to melt people like wax are really going to come in handy.
From the very first scene this book grabbed my attention, opening up on Theo’s first day outside in a year. From that moment on I never lost interest in the young hero's adventure as the story rushes on at pace, stuffed full of action and humour. The author has mixed the last two perfectly; at no point does the conflict become overbearing or tedious and the comedy moments are clever and perfectly placed to cause a chuckle before you launch yourself back into the story.
The book is well written and atmospheric though rather strangely it’s not the atmosphere that suits the world it’s set in. The adventure takes place in modern day London, yet there is a very strong Victorian feel to the plot. The evil society has an air of mad scientist about it, the monsters and most of the settings are very gothic and the superhero characters are old fashioned. If they ever make a film version it should definitely be in black and white with crackly audio! Despite at first seeming a bit out of place in a world of taxis and red double-decker buses I found this aspect very enjoyable and quickly forgot all about the modern London.
The Candle Man turned out to be a great and original adventure book which should appeal to both boys and girls. Very highly recommended for those who like a Victorian atmosphere to their books.