Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Title: How to Train Your Dragon (How to Train Your Dragon, 1)
Author: Cressida Cowell
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (4th February 2010)

HICCUP HORRENDOUS HADDOCK THE THIRD was an awesome swordfighter, a dragon-whisper and the greatest Viking Hero that ever lived.

Can Hiccup pass the Dragon Initiation Programme with a toothless dragon and fight the Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus before it gobbles up every Viking on Berk? It’s time for Hiccup to learn how to be a Hero.

Rating: **** (4 stars)

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON by Cressida Cowell is the first book in the series of the same name. The book follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third as he attempts to pass the Dragon Initiation Programme.

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Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Young Adult
Publisher: Macmillan (21st May 2015)

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what the stories tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travellers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true; he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our father’s would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard known only as the Dragon, to keep the Wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

UPROOTED by Naomi Novik is a standalone young adult fantasy novel. The novel is heavily influenced by fairy tales and tells the story of Agnieszka who lives in a small village that is protected by the Dragon. Next to this village is the Wood, which casts a dark shadow. The book begins just before Dragon picks the next young woman to serve him.

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Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Title: The Iron Trial (Magisterium, 1)
Authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Genre: Fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, Young Adult
Publisher: Corgi Books (2nd July 2015)

Call has no idea what he’ll come up against in THE IRON TRIAL but he knows that if he passes the test, he’ll become a student of magic at the Magisterium.

Only, all his life, Call’s been warned to stay away from magic, so he tries his best to do his worst – but he fails at failing.

Now he must enter the Magisterium, and it’s even more sensational and sinister than he could ever have imagined . . .

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

THE IRON TRIAL is the first book in a new series – Magisterium – by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Callum Hunt has been warned, by his dad, about the dangers of magic his whole life. So when he’s forced to take part in a series of tests that could mean he becomes a student of magic at the Magisterium, Call is determined to fail. Only, Call ends up passing the tests somehow.

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Review: Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Talking to Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book Four)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books (March 2003)

Always be polite to dragon!

That’s what Daystar’s mother taught him . . . and it’s a very wise lesson – one that might just help him after his mom hands him a magic sword and kicks him out of the house. Especially because his house sits on the edge of the Enchanted Forest and his mother is Queen Cimorene.

But the tricky part is figuring out what he’s supposed to do with the magic sword. Where is he supposed to go? And why does everyone he meets seem to know who he is?

It’s going to take a particularly hotheaded fire-witch, a very verbose lizard, and a badly beahving dragon to help him figure it all out.

And those good manners certainly won’t help!

Rating: *** (3 stars)

TALKING WITH DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede is the fourth book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. This book follows the story of Daystar who at sixteen gets handed a magic sword by his mother and sent into the Enchanted Forest, and has to work out for himself what he has to do.

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Review: Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Calling on Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book Three)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books (March 2003)

A Princess’s work is never done – not even when she becomes queen!

Princess Cimorene is now Queen Cimorene . . . and she’s faced her first queenly crisis – the Enchnated Forest is threatened with complete destruction!

Those wizards are back – and they’ve become very smart. (Sort of.) They’ve figured out a way to take over the forest once and for all . . . and what they have planned isn’t pretty.

With a little help from Kazul the dragon kind, Morwen the witch, Telemain the magician, two cats, and a blue, flying donkey-rabbit named – what else? – Killer, Cimorene might just be able to stop them.

And some people think being queen is easy.

Rating: **** (4 stars)

CALLING ON DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede is the third book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Princess Cimorene is happily married to King Mendanbar, and is now Queen of the Enchanted Forest. Morwen the witch, who is friends with Queen Cimorene and Kazul, notices that there is something going on in the Enchanted Forest – the spells that Telemain the magician and Mendanbar wove don’t seem to be working. The wizards are back . . .

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Review: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles Books 1 & 2 by Patricia C. Wrede

The following two reviews are going to be a little different than normal, as I have read both books before (sometime in the early 2000s).

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book One)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books (1st November 2002)

Princess by Birth. Adventurer by Choice.

Meet Princess Cimorene – a princess who refuses to be proper. She is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboy-ish, smart . . .

And bored.

So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon. And not just any dragon, but Kazul – one of the most powerful and dangerous dragons around. Of course, Cimorene has a way of hooking up with dangerous characters, and soon she’s coping with a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, a stone prince, and some very oily wizards.

If this princess ran away to find some excitement, it looks like she’s found plenty!


DEALING WITH DRAGONS is the first book in Patricia C. Wrede’s superb Enchanted Forest Chronicles. This book follows the story of Princess Cimorene of Linderwall who finds that the life that is expected of her as a princess is actually rather dull. Especially as there are a lot of expectations about how a ‘proper’ princess is supposed to behave, and what she is supposed to do. When her parents try to marry her off to a prince, Princess Cimorene runs away and ends up living with Kazul the dragon.

DEALING WITH DRAGONS was one of the books I read when I was a young teen that really cemented my love of fantasy, particularly my love of fantasy with strong female heroes.

Princess Cimorene is not your typical princess; she has little interest in activities that are normally associated with princesses, and would instead prefer to learn Latin, or magic, or how to fence. I found her to be a really likeable and relatable character – I especially admired her ‘can do’ attitude. I also really liked Kazul the dragon, who I think Wrede wrote brilliantly. She was like an elder sister to Cimorene.

Wrede brings humour, fun, and a unique spin on what could be your typical fairy tale. Princess Cimorene is not stolen away by a dragon, instead she runs away to a dragon so she can live the life she wants. Neither does she have to be rescued by a prince, turning fairy tale conventions on their heads.

Although the main plot thread of DEALING WITH DRAGONS focuses on Cimorene finding her place in the world, Wrede cleverly interweaves some addition plot threads that make the book a compelling read. The story is easy to follow, and Wrede takes the typical ideas from fairy tales about what dragons are like and princesses, and princes, and wizards and turns them into something new.

If you are thinking of venturing into the realm of fantasy fiction, then this series might just be the one for you. Wrede writes a strong female hero, an interesting plot, and a humorous, interesting story.


Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Title: Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book Two)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books (November 2002)

Kidnap a dragon? How daring!

How stupid.

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, is back – but where is Kazul the dragon? That’s what Cimorene is determined to find out.

Luckily – or perhaps not-so luckily – she’s got help: Mendanbar, the not-very-kingly King of the Enchanted Forest, has joined her in her quest. So with the aid of a broken-down magic carpet, a leaky magical sword, and a few buckets of soapy lemon water, they set off across the Enchanted Forest to tackle the dragon-napping and save the King of the Dragons.


SEARCHING FOR DRAGONS is the second book in Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and continues the story of Princess Cimorene and her life with Kazul the dragon. This time Kazul has disapperared, and Cimorene makes it her mission to find her. Meanwhile something is going on in the Enchanted Forest and its king, Mendanbar, is determined to find out what.

SEARCHING FOR DRAGONS is a great addition to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Wrede continues Cimorene’s journey, and introduces some new characters as well as more of the world. Wrede also continues the theme of re-imaging fairy tale tropes, which I think she does to great success.

The book starts by introducing us to the King of the Enchanted Forest, which I think helps us to get to know Mendanbar better. It was interesting to see what the world was like from his point of view. Cimorene was exactly as I expected her to be; comfortable and settled into her role as the King of Dragon’s Chief Cook and Librarian, and still exasperated with the occasional knight who turned up to try and rescue her.

The plot of the book focused on two main mysteries; where was the King of Dragons, and what was going on in the Enchanted Forest. I think this worked well, and Wrede told a compelling story, which was fun and enjoyable to follow. The world of the Enchanted Chronicles seems like a really interested, complex world. And I really love some of the ideas in this book that are introduced with the appearance of new characters.

SEARCHING FOR DRAGONS had the same fun and irreverence as the previous book – if you enjoyed DEALING WITH DRAGONS then you are sure to enjoy this one too.

Review: My Neighbor Totoro The Novel

My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel

Title: My Neighbor Totoro The Novel
Author: Tsugiko Kubo
Illustrator and Original Concept: Hayao Miyazaki
Translator: Jim Hubbert
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult
Publisher: Viz Media (7th November 2013)

The beloved animation classic by legendary Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro, is now a novel. This edition features original illustrations by Miyazaki himself, accompanying a story by veteran children’s author Tsugiko Kubo.

Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her sassy little sister Mei have moved to the country to be closer to their ailing mother. Soon, in the woods behind the spooky old house, Satsuki and Mei discover a forest spirit named Totoro. When Mei goes missing, it’s up to Satsuki to find her sister, and she’ll need help from some new, and magical, friends.

Rating: *** (3 stars)

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO THE NOVEL by Tsugiko Kubo is literally what it says it is: the novel version of Hayao Miyazaki’s film of the same name. The book tells the story of eleven-year-old Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei. The sisters move with their father to the country so they can be closer to their mother, who is ill and resides in Shichikokuyama Hospital.

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Review: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong

Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong (UK edition)

Title: Empire of Night (Age of Legends, 2)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Young Adult
Publisher: Atom (1st April 2015)


Moira and Ashyn have lost everything except each other. Betrayed, orphaned and kept under close guard at court, they are desperate to find help for the children of their village, kidnapped by a terrifying enemy.

But their quest is tangled in a much greater battle – for the fate of the empire itself. Torn apart by violence and intrigue, the sisters will learn a great deal about their powers and their potential. But they will also learn the heartbreak of betrayal and loss, as those they love reveal their dark secrets . . .

The second volume in the Age of Legends trilogy, Empire of Night is a breathtaking dark fantasy from international bestselling author Kelley Armstrong.

Rating: *** (3 stars)

EMPIRE OF NIGHT by Kelley Armstrong is the second book in her Age of Legends trilogy. The book continues the tale of twins Moira and Ashyn – Keeper and Seeker. After the events of SEA OF SHADOWS (review) Moira and Ashyn are kept at court, but they long to know the fate of the children from their village. Both sisters feel trapped, and want to help the children but war is brewing.

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Review: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone

Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone

Title: Circles of Stone (The Mirror Chronicles, 2)
Author: Ian Johnstone
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins (2nd July 2015)
Source: Publisher

Two halves of the same soul, forced to seperate again . . .

Two worlds that must be saved . . .

Sylas has made two monumental discoveries: his lost mother is alive, and he has found Naeo, his Glimmer – the other half of his soul living in the mirror world of the Other. As his magical powers grown, Sylas is desperate to return to his own world and find his mother. Naeo is also searching for her father, captured by the dark lord, Thoth, who is raising an army of unspeakable monstrosity.

As they are pursued by creatures of darkness, Sylas an Naeo must seperate to survive. But to defeat Thoth they will need to come together again . . .

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

CIRCLES OF STONE by Ian Johnstone is the second book in his impressive series The Mirror Chronicles. The book continues the adventures of Sylas as he attempts to be reunited with his mother, and of Naeo who longs to be reunited with her father. Events set in motion in the previous book, THE BELL BETWEEN WORLDS (review), start to reach a head as Thoth begins to make his move.

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Review: The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

Title: The Iron Ghost (The Copper Promise, 2)
Author: Jen Williams
Genre: Fantasy, Swords & Sorcery
Publisher: Headline (26th February 2015)
Source: Bookbridgr/the Publisher

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by acient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, getting ready to return, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking . . .

Rating: **** (4 stars)

THE IRON GHOST by Jen Williams is the second book in The Copper Promise series. It continues the adventures of Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith – the Black Feather Three. When they decide to take a job returning a stolen artefact, things rapidly become more complicated.

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