Posted on

The Train to Impossible Places – P.G. Bell

In a spellbinding debut novel for older children, P.G. Bell has created a unique world to tell his story in. We follow the adventures of Susie Smith an 11 year old, physics loving girl who hitches a ride on a magical postal delivery train that takes a detour through her front room.

She is soon drawn into a fantastical adventure delivering magical post to time stealing evil witches, diving deep to meet pirate ghosts and breaking retired post office trolls out of their retirement home to liberate a secret and gain entry to the obsidian tower where a mystery will be solved and her adventure to save the kingdom of impossible places.

It’s refreshing to see a science loving heroine of colour lead a book like this with action, whimsy and trains. Lots of trains. And trolls. And a yellow monkey powering the train with explosive bananas. Because of course.

This is a thrilling ride, well written, and I can’t wait for more adventures in a fictional world where gravity is negotiable and the post train needs to run on time.

Posted on

Agatha Oddly – The Secret Key – Lena Jones

Agatha Oddlow is 13, and like her namesake, loves a mystery. She’s a detective, with a so far unsuccessful agency in her too posh school. She doesn’t fit in, as you would expect for someone whose current read is about the most poisonous plants in England. She tries to avoid her bullies, Sarah and the CC’s (original meaning forgotten, they are the Carbon Copies – but not to their faces). Her best friend Liam is her escape, and her confidente in all things detective, covering for her as she escapes the school grounds (in her latest disguise) via the recycle bin. She lives with her Dad, in the groundskeepers cottage in Hyde Park and is friends with the local homeless man JP.

Agatha’s mum encouraged investigation, puzzles and mysteries. Her Mum passed away, but Agatha keeps her memories alive through compulsive note taking in her note books, wearing her vintage clothes and re reading her old books.

When an old lady is knocked over by a motorbike in Hyde Park – on purpose – Agatha helps, and starts to investigate why. It turns out the lady is a professor and has a mysterious key tattoo, and before long there are threats to Agatha and her family, cholorform incidents, terror alerts to the water supply in London, and secret socieities under the city. How is this all connected, who is warning her off the case and just what does the key symbol have to do with her mother?

This is a great early teen adventure, with a proactive, brave heroine who literally won’t take no for an answer. Agatha is street smart, observant and persuasive, and rescues herself – and quite often Liam. The mystery is quite high stakes for a book like this, with city wide consequences, but it never loses track of the plot or the books sense of fun.  It’s a complete mystery in and of itself, that has potential for future books, which is refreshing, so you  won’t immediately have to be looking for book two. However, the quality of the writing and the likeable characters mean that you will be first in the queue at Rogan’s Books in March for Agatha’s next case, The Murder At The Museum…

 

 

Posted on

The Cradle of All Worlds (The Jane Doe Chronicles 1) – Jeremy Lachlan

This is a tricky one, it’s a rip roaring adventure featuring a smart, sarcastic heroine who is saving herself, but it’s definitely solely aimed at it’s audience, with less adult appeal than you might expect for a book of this ilk.

Jane Doe appeared with her semi comatose father on the steps of the Manor in the town of Bluehaven.

For years she has been struggling with her social position as her appearance that day lead to her being labelled as cursed. She feeds and looks after her dad, while living in the basement of the family who drew the short straw and had to take her in.

She finds out there is a gateway to other worlds in the manor and that her blood opens mysterious gateways as well as having the power to demolish the buildings of her town.

Once the action moves  into the world behind the manor, the book becomes a thrilling adventure with great set pieces, new characters and great world building.

Which is good as this one finishes on a blooming cliffhanger!

Posted on

Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

This enchanting book for older children debuted in 2017, and as the sequel has just been released it seemed an ideal time to have a little look at this one.

We follow Morrigan Crow who has always been told she’s useless and a curse, and blamed for literally anything that goes wrong where she lives. She didn’t really mind all that as she has always known that she was going to die at Eventide, when she is 11.

Just as she’s supposed to die, she is whisked away by a mysterious, enigmatic, incredibly…. ginger haired man named Jupiter North. They arrive in a city of magic, Nevermoor, at the hotel he owns and Morrigan tries to settle in.

Through a series of trials, Morrigan is to try to gain entry to the Wundrous Society, which is the most respected organisation in Nevermoor. Battling her outsider status against mean girls and their magical talents Morrigan finds unlikely allies – most notably a giant talking cat called Fen.

The language is simple, yet magical and spellbinding, the imagery is stunning and cinematic (you feel the whole thing has been written with a lucrative film contract in mind). In particular the Hotel Deucalion seems so wondrous, sorry Wundrous, that you are totally enchanted. Who wouldn’t want a rooms of flavoured smoke whose smells change by season and mood, to a room that sensed your emotional state and changed configuration and decoration according to it’s own whim?

This immersion in a comforting, homely world is what is making people draw comparisons to Harry Potter, but this is infinitely more innocent, and optimistic than that, a real family friendly approach to adventure.

The plot and pacing are great, and enough of the world opens up so that you both can see the avenues future books might take, but also enjoy the story as a whole.