Book Review: Here Be Witches (Sarah Mussi)

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Shrine Bell

Pages: 476

Release Date: March 1st 2017

Summary:

All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the middle of a BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL. A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake; mythical creatures and evil ghosts have risen. And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD. Thank heavens for loyal friend George, disloyal bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey. Armed with Granny Jones’s potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to REVERSE THE SPELL, stop the EVIL White Dragon and find Henry. As an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just THREE DAYS to SURVIVE and complete their quest.

Review:

When I was contacted about reviewing this book, the main reason I wanted to was because of the setting. I went to university in Bangor in North Wales and lived there for five years. There’s something weirdly exciting about reading a book set where you’ve lived. I got a little thrill when she mentioned Bangor, could really picture the scary beauty of Snowdon and even picked out the odd Welsh word I knew (my Welsh is terrible). Bonus points also as my best friend, who still lives there, is called Eli.

That’s a pretty personal reason for liking a book, so I’ll move on…

This is the second book in the Snowdonia Chronicles series. I haven’t read the first book but managed to pick up enough from this one to figure out what had been going on in it. I don’t think it really affected my reading and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Ellie is a fun narrator. She’s funny and sarcastic and I loved how she’d sometimes write what she meant, then cross it out to put something nicer. The narration style was very chatty and that made her feel relatable, like you were reading something from a friend. I also loved George’s Gran, who was a bit eccentric but also right about all the weird things she said and gave them good advice with her sound knowledge of Wales and folklore.

I wasn’t as keen on George and Rhi. George’s love for Ellie just seemed odd to me. It felt weird for him to keep going on about him fancying Ellie to her face all the time: it would make me feel awkward if I were her and I just didn’t like the relationship. Rhi was another thing altogether. She does some pretty bad stuff (no spoilers) and while Ellie is mad at her for it, she forgives her far more easily than I would have. Rhi also goes on about loving George all the time to and I found that weird.

The folklore in the book was really interesting and has made me want to read up on some of it more. I loved that it referred to The Mabinogion a lot and used a lot of Welsh words and phrases. A lot of things were explained with footnotes, which was handy, although they were often explained between the characters in the book too, which felt a bit like overkill.

 I didn’t always feel the danger of the book: while they kept saying the stakes were high, I don’t think I always felt it. I found some of the characters a bit too annoying and unrealistic, but others, like Ellie, felt spot on.If you like fantasy and folklore then this is a great book for you. There are some things you’ll probably find familiar but a lot might be new to you, as it was for me, and I know I want to look into some of these things more.

3

Book Review: Indigo’s Dragon (Sofi Croft)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Accent Press

Pages: 90

Release Date: June 23rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Some families keep monstrous secrets…

Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather’s satchel. Indigo’s curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather’s notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures.

Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth.

Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever…

Review:

I’ve started reading a little more MG books lately – it’s always good to try something new, and I’m definitely glad I did with this one.

Indigo’s Dragon is a quick and exciting fantasy novel set in the rolling hills of the Lake District and the beautiful Polish mountains. I felt the settings played a huge part within the story and the descriptions really brought it to life: it’s not too description heavy, which is better for younger readers, but there’s enough there so that you can really visualise it and get a good sense of the wonderful surroundings.

There’s plenty of mystery within the book and it gets stuck into it straight away: it certainly grabbed my attention and I think younger readers will have no problem with staying engaged. The plot moves quickly without feeling rushed, and you never quite know where it’s going – I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and it’s really made me look forward to the sequel, which I think will be a different book from what I was expecting.

I loved the creatures in the book the most – they could easily have been standard monsters, but Croft adds in little details that makes you see them as animals instead, with their own habitats and habits and quirks.

Indigo is a great protagonist and someone I feel readers will relate to. He’s smart, but not overly clever, and he has his flaws too, which make him feel human and real. I love the debate that goes on between him and Orava on the effect of the creatures living near to humans – dragons and cockatrices can be disruptive and deadly to humans, so it’s hard to get the balance between preserving the creatures and looking after your own needs.

This is a book I can really imagine reading aloud to my children one day, or having them read it aloud to me as they grow more confident with reading. For fans of Harry Potter and How to Train Your Dragon, this book is sure to be a hit with younger readers, and I look forward to the sequel!

4

Book Review: The Land of Dragor: The Gift of Charms (Julia Suzuki)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Details:

Publisher: Dino Books
Pages: 288
Release Date: 4th September 2014
 

Blurb:
In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world’s remaining dragons, hoping the dragsaur beasts have vanished forever.
Here they try to go about their busy daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading. Things change, however, when, from a strange egg, Yoshiko is born – a dragon with a unique destiny.

 Great adventure lies ahead for him, as many challenges must be overcome, leading to a dangerous mission to the human world in attempt to return to the clans their missing magic!

Can Yoshiko make it in time?

Review:

I did want so much to like this book. I read great things about it, but I feel it just did not live up to my expectations. I should also mention that this is more of an MG book than the YA I would normally review, so I did try to take that into account when reading and reviewing.

I found the plot entertaining enough, if not slightly predictable: a young dragon, different from the rest who must cope with bullying and then become better than his classmates to fulfil a secret destiny. It might be a bit well worn but it can make for a good read.

I didn’t, however, find the characters very relatable. They were all a little flat: the bully was full of nasty comments and stands up to his father at the end, the protagonist is initially wound up by him but learns to rise above it. I think a lot of this was in the dialogue, which was quite wooden at times and just didn’t sing to me. I found the dragons too human in their character and habits: why do they need to fry food and write things down in records? I would have been more interested in them having their own way of living rather than it being so similar to humans.

The book spent a good amount of time building up the story and training Yoshiko for his destiny, all of which was enjoyable, if not a little fast paced. So when it came to him fulfilling this destiny, I was surprised to find how easy it was. I know we saw him do a lot of training, but when he flies out of Dragor to find the charms, he flew out, found them and flew back. For a hero’s journey, I’d expect some more challenges and excitement.

Overall I found the whole thing quite rushed and not in depth enough for my liking. I liked the idea and I think with a little more character development and some more exciting plot twists, it could have been a good read.

My Verdict: