Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Search for WondLa by Tony Di’Terlizzi

The Search for WondLa is the creation of Tont Di’Terlizzi, well known for The Spiderwick Chronicles. It tells the story of Eva Nine, who has been raised in an underground home by Muthr, a robot. She’s being prepared for her life outside, but when she gets there, she finds that it’s very different to what she was expecting.

Chased by a baddie, Eva Nine sets out to find other humans, and her journey brings her into contact with unusual people and places. It’s worth pointing out that this is the first book in a trilogy, so by the end, her journey is not complete. It is still a nice ending though.

The book is a strange combination – it has an old fashioned fairy tale feel to it, and yet it’s set in the future, with sci-fi elements. It’s a combination which can take a while to get used to, but it’s worth persevering.

The illustrations are also unusual, based on a ‘two colour’ technique. It does add to the overall feel of the book, but I have to admit that I would have preferred full colour. The addition of illustrations make this a good book for those first moving into full length books, and I think the ideal age is somewhere between 8 and 12, depending on reading level. I think it’s particularly suited to those who enjoy the whole experience of a book – it’s certainly the sort of book which would be cherished by those who enjoy the story.

The Search for WondLa is supported by a website, where you can see examples of the artwork, play games, download desktop images etc. It also includes WondLa Vision, which can be activated using images in the book. Unfortunately I had problems making it work, but the demonstration looks good, so I will try again.

Published by Simon and Schuster, available in hardback, ebook and audio – paperback 1st Sept 2011.

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Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

Black Swan Rising is the first book in a dark urban fantasy series. It’s written by a husband and wife team, which seems to work in its favour. Carol is the novelist, and Lee is a poet, and his influence shows in the writing.

The main character, Garet Jones, is in her 20s, and dealing with problems – she has an elderly father, and they are struggling with debts in a failing economy. When she discovers an unusual silver box to which she seems to have connections, she agrees to try to open it. From this point on, she starts to find her world shifting. She’s introduced to the world of fey, meets goblins, a dragon and a vampire, and comes face to face with the demons of Dispair and Discord.

As a keen YA reader, I expected this to be similar to most other paranormal romance books out there, but it has a more adult feel to it. There is a lot of fantasy, and yet at the same time it seems to remain grounded in the real world. Garet takes time to come to terms with her discoveries, and she takes the reader with her. In addition, the characters aren’t black and white – there’s always that sense that some may not be what they seem, and should not be trusted.

Of course some of the ideas and characters have been done before, I think a totally unique book in this crowded genre is impossible. However, the overall story line is something I haven’t come across before, and there are some great character creations.

It’s a fast paced book, with plenty of details, story threads and characters throughout. Whilst I needed to know what would happen, I was sad to finish and leave the world. Thankfully the 2nd book is already published, so I will be returning soon.

For fans of urban fantasy, this is highly recommended.

Black Swan Rising is published by Bantam, and was sent to me as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge.

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Caligula by Douglas Jackson (Transworld Book Group)

Title: Caligula (Roman Trilogy 1)
Douglas Jackson
First Published:
Feb 2009
No. of pages:496

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (back cover):
Rufus, a young slave, grows up far from the corruption of the imperial court. He is a trainer of animals for the gladiatorial arena. But when Caligula wants a keeper for the emperor’s elephant, Rufus is bought from his owner and taken to the palace.

Life at court is dictated by Caligula’s ever shifting moods. He is as generous as he is cruel – a megalomaniac who declares himself a living god and simultaneously lives in constant fear of plots against his life. His paranoia is not misplaced however; intrigue permeates his court, and Rufus will find himself unwittingly at the centre of a conspiracy to assassinate the emperor.

Fans of intrigue, action and historical drama will all be thrilled by the first novel in the Romans trilogy by Douglas Jackson. From the first sentence, the reader is totally immersed in the unfolding drama – once can almost taste the paranoia dripping from each page as it is turned.

Caligula’s sadistic tendencies, even as a child, are quickly revealed, but so is the constant fear with which he lives and I, very surprisingly, found that on occasion, I actually felt some sympathy for him – I wasn’t prepared for that and it was a refreshing change. Rufus, and his friendship with Cupido, were written with such devotion that one could almost believe the author was writing about close friends of his own, such was the realism of both their characters and their relationship. As for Bersheba, the emperor’s elephant, she has such character that it’s no stretch of the imagination to feel her presence and hear her huffing breath as one reads – she’s right there beside you.

There’s excitement by the barrel load and the roar of the crowds in the arena is almost palpable, along with the stench of the animals and the stink of sweat and blood. It’s a vividly recreated world that one feels could almost be touched. It’s not just a story, it’s an experience.

I highly recommend this novel and am champing at the bit to read the rest of the trilogy.

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

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