#Review: Monster Mission by Eva Ibbtson #ChildrensFiction #Fantasy

This is the fourth of Ibbotson’s books that I’ve read and once again one for children featuring both eccentric characters and fantastical creatures. But even though it is a fun adventure story, and probably more unusual than her others, at its heart (like her others) it essentially is a comment on human beings and the ills we unleash on the world around us, on our greed, selfishness—things that make so many of us rather despicable.

In this one, we have three sisters living on an island with their old father. They have been there for years and have been looking after various creatures—fish and animals who suffer because of oil spills and such; but these ‘ordinary’ beings are not the only ones they look after—there are also selkies, mermaids, and the boobrie bird. But these sisters, the aunts, Eta, Coral and Myrtle are now growing old and begin to worry about their charges. So they decide to do something very unnatural for them—kidnap some children who they’ll train to take over. And so Minette, Fabio, and unfortunately Lambert find themselves on the island. While the aunts have in their opinion ‘chosen’ children whose parents/guardians don’t seem to care particularly for them, there are consequences and attempts are made to look for them. Also, among the children, unlike Minette and Fabio who seem perfectly cut out for the purpose the aunts brought them for, Lambert a nasty, spoilt and wealthy boy is not and is determined to escape (while one can’t exactly fault him for it, his presence portends trouble). Meanwhile on the island, the children begin to learn about the unusual creatures and all that is involved in taking care of them, and soon enough become part of life there. An unusual event is also taking place bringing a lot joy to the island and its inhabitants (human and others), but sadly to spoil it, a greedy and dangerous man is heading to the island. And once he discovers all the usual beings who live there, he begins to covet them to fill his coffers some more.

This is a fun yet crazy tale of the aunts who are looking for the right people to take over their mantle but sadly choose the wrong way of getting them to the island. The aunts are quite good fun, though also very eccentric (we meet two others who don’t live on the island), and yet the only one of these sisters who chose the ‘normal’ path in life ends up coming across as the odd one. Minette and Fabio are very likeable too, and expectedly Lambert is horrid as are Boo-Boo and the Little One, children of Betty, the ‘normal’ sister. The adventure itself of how the children come to the island, and how Minnette and Fabio not only prove that they were indeed the right choices to look after their new animal and unusual friends, but also turn out to be the ones who help their new friends escape the clutches and nefarious schemes of the evil Mr Sprott. There are a few twists and surprises along the way which I thought added to the fun.  And I also though the book did a good job of delivering its message on human failings and the terrible harm that were causing the world around us. Not only that, Ibbotson also manages to poke fun at many of our vanities and habits. May be not my favourite Ibbotson, but still good fun.

I read this one as part of my seasonal picks in October.

Have you read this one? Which are some of your favourite Ibbotson books? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Shelf Control #112: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig #YoungAdult #Fantasy #TBR #SpookyReads

Wednesday, the 4th of November (wow, this year has really flown past), and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

This week my pick is yet another young adult read (like last week here), and yet another recent addition to my shelf, but this time one that promises to be spooky and scary, and just right for the season (so is last week’s pick but in a different sense): House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig.

This one is a dark retelling of the Grimm’s fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Although I have read quite a few of the Grimms’ fairytales, I don’t think I’ve read this one, but am familiar with the story. Also I used to (still do, really) enjoy playing a few of the RPG games by Amaranth Games including Ahriman’s Prophecy which incorporates this story–the adventurers in that game have to solve various side-quests and one of these was a version of this when the daughters of a vineyard-owner vanish every night and when our characters follow them to find out, it turns out something on these lines but with a nice, dark yet fun twist. Anyway, I realise I’m getting side-tracked too much so lets get back to the book.

In this book, we meet Annaleigh who lives a sheltered life in a manor by the sea. Her family includes her father, stepmother and sisters. But where once they were twelve, now four of her sisters’ lives have been lost, each death being more tragic than the last, for reasons ranging from the plague to a plummeting fall. A series of visions make her suspicious that these deaths were no accidents. Annaleigh’s sisters have been sneaking out at night in the ball gowns and dancing shoes, dancing all night but with whom? And Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to stop them or join them! But she has to act before the darkness claims her as well.

I came across this book entirely by chance watching booktube videos. And when I looked it up on Goodreads, the description sounded interesting and I noticed that quite a few of my friends had enjoyed this one (and also found it creepy) as well. So when there was a book sale a couple of weeks go, I picked up a nice hardback edition with the pretty cover in the picture above. I am looking forward to reading this one really soon for it seems the perfect read for the season (I know Halloween is gone, but still…).

Have you read this book or any other versions of the Twelve Dancing Princesses? Which one/s and any that you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover image and description are as always from Goodreads: here

Find Lisa’s pick this week, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman set in Hawaii during the Second World War here

#Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden #Folktales #Fantasy

The first of a trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale is a magical and wonderful story combining elements of folklore and fantasy, and exploring various themes, most prominent among them religion—specifically the impact that the arrival/spread of Christianity had on old beliefs. Set in Russia, the story introduces us to the family of Pyotr Vladimirovich whose beloved wife Marina (who had something of magic in her) dies after giving birth to their youngest daughter, our ‘heroine’ Vasilisa or Vasya. Vasya is the only one of the children of have inherited her mother’s abilities/magic; and can see and speak to the spirits that guard their world, the homes they live in, the stables, the forests, and all else—and it is these that keep evil at bay. Vasya and her siblings have a happy enough life, being brought up by Dunya, their mother’s old nurse who tells them all the old fairy tales and stories including of Morozoko, the frost king, but Vasya grows up a little wild preferring to spend her time outdoors and in the forest and not caring much for social decorum. As the other children grow up, Pyotr begins to worry about Vasya and decides on remarriage. His new wife (not of Pyotr’s own choosing due to circumstances that he finds himself in) also has Vasya’s gifts, she can see these spirits but considers them demons rather than friends. Soon, a new priest also comes to their little village and begins to encourage people to give up their old ways—almost all used leave offerings for these spirits even though they could not see them. Vasya sees the village begin to change in front of her eyes as the priest uses his charisma as well as fear to change the people, and as a result, the spirits begin to weaken, and evil begins to enter their lives and homes. Vasya is soon the only friend the spirits have left, and the only one who can protect her village against the evil that is being unleashed. Alongside other storylines too, proceed, something of the fairytales that Dunya used to narrate is playing out in real life, and Vasya is very much a part of it, while away from them in town, the prince (Vasya’s mother’s half-brother) is worried about succession to his throne and the developments that take place as a consequence end up impacting Vasya and her family in more than one way. [Some of the characters are historical but their stories are tweaked.]

This was a rich and beautiful tale, told in a wonderful way. I loved the setting in old Russia, and the whole concept of the spirits that look after everything around us—the domovoi or spirit of the hearth, the vazila, or protector of the stables, the rusalka, the water nymph [even Baba Yaga (the one fairy tale character I was most familiar with from old Misha magazines) finds a mention]. In fact, I felt the author explored/developed the whole theme of the clash or conflict that arose between old beliefs and new, with of course the magic elements attached to them so well—rather perfectly blending in the elements of fantasy and reality. Besides faith, other themes too are explored—from family and relationships to social mores and sanity/insanity, as well as politics and power, and of course magic. Politics we see ends up having also completely unintended, yet rather grave impacts on more than one life (in addition to the reasons those steps were taken).  And while there is a lot going on in the story, both real and fastastical elements being explored side by side, even weaving into each other, they all seemed to move along pretty seamlessly.

Vasya is a strong and spirited heroine, one who is confident of her own opinions and ways of seeing things and is not even for a moment swayed by the influences that easily seem to impact all others. For a time, she seems to be giving into what is expected of her (the more orthodox paths in life) but soon enough she realises that those are neither for her, nor what she is meant to do. Her family is mostly supportive and loving, but both Pyotr and Dunya take steps that they think will protect her and when her sister and brothers have left home (old enough to start their own lives), she must more or less on her own contend with her stepmother, who is the stereotypical stepmother in some ways, though battling demons of her own.

And speaking of demons, there are a fair few in the story and these certainly make the atmosphere fairly creepy at times; not the spirits but the evil that is unleased when the spirits begin to weaken, and some of the forms that this takes—those plus the cold winter setting makes this one a great read for the Halloween/Fall/Winter time.

I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to seeing how the story proceeds as Vasya continues her adventure.   

[p.s. The cover art of this one is also gorgeous.]

Have you read this one (and the others in the series)? How did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find reviews by Az you read (here) and Mischevious Words by Marta (here)

Cover image: my own with in the background a page from Little Cock Feather Frock (a Russian Folktale)

#Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black #fantasy #cruelprince

The Queen of Nothing is the final book of the Folk of the Air trilogy and turned out for me to be an exciting and quite satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. This was a series I’d been hearing about a lot, so I decided to give The Cruel Prince a try, and found myself enjoying it so much that I promptly ordered The Wicked King, and once it was out, also the Queen of Nothing.

In the series, Jude and her twin sister Taryn live in Faerie after their parents are brutally killed. There, even though they are brought up among the gentry and given all the advantages, they are looked down upon and targeted by many including the ‘Cruel Prince’ of the title, Cardan. While both sisters want to fit into Faerie, Taryn wants to take the traditional path (getting married) while Jude craves power (somewhat like their father Madoc). (Their older sister Vivi, on the other hand, choses to move to and live in the human world.) But while Jude does act upon her wishes and finds herself in the court and in a position of power, alongside there is also plenty of danger—on more than one occasion she comes rather close to losing her life. The first two instalments were full of twists and turns, with many of the characters acting unexpectedly, power games playing out with bloodshed and betrayal, and also some romance as well, and of course a shocking twist at the end (of both).

Trying to keep this as spoiler free for the earlier books as well, as the result of the events of the previous book, Jude finds herself in the human world, banished from Faerie, living with Vivi and little Oak, and trying to make a living among the Faerie folk there—of course taking up ‘missions’ that are far from tame. Here her twin Taryn visits suddenly with a shocking revelation and a request for help. This means Jude would to return to Faerie and run the risk of being caught breaking her exile. But she agrees all the same—and the visit that should have been a short one of course turns out not to be that at all as she finds herself landing amidst politics and conspiracy. Meanwhile a prophecy surrounding Cardan also seems to be playing out which doesn’t bode well for him; on the other hand, Cardan himself ends up surprising her yet again. How will things end—well of course, but one has to read on to see just how!

This third instalment was once again very exciting and fast paced and once I started I found myself pretty-much racing through it. Between the prophecy and the magic involved in that is playing out and the political games to overthrow the King and take over the crown, there is plenty of action once again—lesser bloodshed than I expected, though. And like the first two instalments, once again we see more secrets revealed, and some betrayal (though again tamer may be, compared to the previous books). If you’re wondering about the snake on the cover, that was a surprise I didn’t see coming, while I wasn’t at first liking how that angle of the story was going, I rather enjoyed the almost fairy-tale way it was resolved—not the usual fairy tale path but still one. I also enjoyed meeting our old friends from the court of shadows and seeing how things turn out for them as well.

This was a great deal of fun and a series I really enjoyed a lot—fast-paced, gripping, and very exciting all through, and all wrapped up very nicely indeed! Definitely on my favourites list!

Have you read this series? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts!    

Cover picture: Mine for a change!

Shelf Control #83: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black #Fantasy #YoungAdult #TBR

Wednesday, the 25th of March–Shelf Control time once again! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It is a weekly feature, and appears every Wednesday. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, the second time in a row, my pick is a young adult fantasy read, and coincidentally also the final one in a series (Last week, I featured Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor-post here)–The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. The Queen of Nothing is the third in the Folk of the Air series, the first two being The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. I picked up Cruel Prince last year, and found it so entertaining and enjoyable that I bought the sequel nearly immediately, and this was also as enjoyable and kept me hooked all through. So of course, I had to read the final instalment to see how everything turns out.

The series tells the story of Jude who with her twin Taryn and older sister Vivi are taken to live in Faerie, after their parents are brutally killed. There, many look down upon them, especially the youngest prince Cardan, who loses no chance to torment. While Taryn wants to fit in simply by falling in love and getting married, Jude wants to become a knight and be able to give a fitting response to her tormentors. But when things are not working the way she wants them to, she begins to take steps to acquire power, getting eventually involved in political games playing out around the throne of Faerie. In The Wicked King, the games continue with Jude finding herself occupying an important place as the power behind the throne. Love, hate, politics, conspiracy, and betrayal are constants, and both the plot and the characters surprise one more than once with twists, turns, and plenty of secrets.

Without going into too much of a spoiler, in this final instalment, Jude has been banished from Faerie, and to the mortal realm. She is biding her time and waiting to return. Her twin Taryn brings to her this opportunity, and Jude must return to an atmosphere where war is brewing and politics continues to be dangerous. A dormant but powerful curse is unleashed which forces her to make a choice–between ambition and her humanity. How do things turn out for her, for Taryn, for Cardan?

The Author: Holly Black is an American writer and editor. She has written several young adult and middle-grade novels, short stories, graphic novels and comics, and some poetry. Among her works are the Spiderwick Chronicles, and the Magesterium books co-written with Cassandra Clare.

Have you read this series? Did you enjoy it as much as I have been? What did you think of this instalment? Did it live up to your expectations? Looking forward to your thoughts!

I have featured The Cruel Prince in a previous Shelf Control Post (here), and my reviews of Cruel Prince and Wicked King are here and here.

Find reviews of The Queen of Nothing from the Orangutan Librarian (here), A Book A Thought (here), and Reading by Starlight (here)

Cover image and description as always are from goodreads (here) and the author (here)

Shelf Control #82: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor #TBR #Fantasy #YoungAdult

Wednesday, the 18th of March–time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week my pick is a book I got a while ago, but haven’t gotten down to reading yet–Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Published in 2018, this is the concluding part of the young-adult duology Strange the Dreamer. Strange the Dreamer tells the story of the eponymous Lazlo Strange, brought up in a monastery as he was an orphan. On hearing stories of a mysterious and magical city from a strange monk at the monastery, Lazlo becomes increasingly fascinated with the city, but as if by magic even its name disappears from everyone’s minds including Lazlo’s own, and all that is remembered is the name ‘Weep’ (not its actual name). When Lazlo grows up and becomes first an apprentice, and then a librarian, his fascination continues, and he seeks to learn all he can about it from all the books he can lay his hands on. One day, an unforeseen opportunity comes his way as a warrior known as the Godslayer comes to his city, and he finds himself actually travelling to Weep–his dream being realised. On the other side, in Weep we learn the story of a very different young girl, half-human, half-god, Sarai, who has had a difficult life of her own, and who has a rather extraordinary talent. Their stories intersect once there, where tragedy has touched more than one life, human and other.

In the Muse of Nightmares, things have changed very much for both Lazlo and Sarai, neither of them are who they were in the first book. Lazlo must make an unthinkable choice, save the woman he loves or everyone else, while Sarai must realise what she is truly capable of. The many questions, the mysteries that the first book left unanswered must still be resolved, and a new foe who arrives on the scene must be contended with.

This is a series I came across on a Goodreads friend’s review (video here), and I liked the sound of it a lot and wanted very much to read it. A few months ago, I found Muse of Nightmares on sale on kindle and picked it up even though I hadn’t got the first one yet (silly but the first would be on sale eventually 😛 ). Finally I did get the first book (a physical copy) which I am reading now (nearly finished, in fact) and so very much looking forward to reading this second one. Despite the elements of tragedy and sadness in the book (in the lives of many of the characters), there is so much that is magical and beautiful–both the things/places the author has created and the prose itself, which is making me really enjoy this one. And of course, I want to know what happens next!

The author: Laini Taylor is an American author who writes in the young adult fantasy genre. Born in Chico, California, Taylor, who grew up as a ‘military kid’ earned a degree in English from UC Berkeley. She has written various series and collections, the best known among them being Daughter of Smoke and Bone which has three novels and a novella, and Strange the Dreamer. Strange the Dreamer is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

Have you read the Strange the Dreamer books or others by Laini Taylor? Which ones and how did you find them? If you haven’t yet, do you plan to read any? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Info on the book is from Goodreads (here) and the author from Wikipedia (here); the cover image and author image are both from Goodreads (here and here)

Shelf Control #80: The Bear and The Nightingale #TBR #Fantasy #RussianFairyTales

Wednesday, the 4th of March–time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, my pick is the first of a fantasy trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale (2017) by Katherine Arden. This is pretty much the latest addition to my shelf–my copy arrived yesterday, the cover on the right, and it is very very pretty.

With its basis in Russian fairy tales, the book tells the story of Vasilisa, living at the edge of the Russian wilderness, a place where it is winter most of the year. Vasilisa spends most nights with her siblings, huddled around the fire, listening to fairytales told by their nurse. Among these stories, her favourite is that of the blue-eyed winter-demon, Frost who the wise fear, for he claims unwary souls, and as protection honor the spirits that protect their homes. But Vasilisa’s mother dies, and her father remarries, a devout and harsh woman from Moscow who forbids them from honouring the house spirits. And of course, evil begins to affect them–crops failing, evil from the forest growing nearer, and misfortune coming upon the village. Now Vasilisa must call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed, to save her family from all that her nurse’s stories warned of.

The author: Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden, who now resides in Vermont spent a year in Moscow after High School. She holds a degree in Russian and French. She has written the Winternight trilogy of which The Bear and the Nightingale is the first book, as well as a couple of books for children, also part of a series, Small Spaces.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a book I was very interested in picking up essentially because of its basis in Russian fairy tales and folklore. The world it is set in sounds pretty and magical, though the winter must make the ill that occurs all the more chilling. The story sounds like one of what occurs or might occur when a more ‘modern’ world and belief system tries to oust or replace a more traditional one, something that shouldn’t be done lightly, though of course in a fantasy setting where consequences can be very different from those in the ‘real’ world.

Have you read this one? Or if not, do you plan to? How did you like it, if you have? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

All the info on the book is from Goodreads (here) as always and on the author from Wikipedia (here).

Shelf Control #57: Maelyn by Anita Valle #fantasy #youngadult

Wednesday, 21st August–time for another Shelf Control post. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This week (am writing after a week’s break), I’m featuring a book that’s waiting to be read on Kindle–Maelyn by Anita Valle. This one was a freebie being offered on Kindle and it looked interesting so I picked it up.

Maelyn is the first in a series, The Nine Princesses novellas. This one is about a King and Queen who have no children of their own; so the King goes to nine kingdoms and brings home nine baby girls, orphans, who become their very own princesses. But when the King and Queen die, and Maelyn, at eighteen, is ruling over the Runa realm, she finds that not all the people consider her and her sisters princesses, seeing them as no more than frauds or impostors who no longer deserve to be on the throne. Their Uncle Jarrod, King of Grunwold, too is determined to show that Maelyn isn’t really a princess. With all this doubt and hostility around her, Maelyn begins to question herself too. This is the first of the adventures of nine unconventional princesses, each of which focuses on one of the girls, each very different from the other, with personalities that often clash.

This is a fantasy adventure for young adults that sounded like a fun read to me. I am not sure if this is a retelling or merely has a base in fairy tales but it will be interesting to see (whether and) how that connection is made or inspiration taken.

The author: Anita Valle is an American artist (some of her dog art is on her site here (also princess art but being me, I had to share the dogs 🙂 )) and author of series including the Nine Princesses novellas and the Dark Fairy Tale Queen series. The latter series seems to put a dark (or darker) spin on fairy tale princesses–Cinderella, Snow White, etc.

Have you read this or any of the other books in this series? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

As always the info about the book is from goodreads (here) and about the author (here).

Shelf Control #55: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix #Fantasy #TBR #Children’sLiterature

The last day of July, and the last Shelf Control for the month! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 260 including all the e-books I have). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This month, in tandem with my ‘theme’ of reading sequels and next in series books, I’ve been featuring these in my Shelf Control posts as well. This week’s pick Superior Saturday by Garth Nix is book 6 in the Keys to the Kingdom series by the author. This is a fantasy-adventure series comprising seven books published between 2003 and 2010; this one appeared in 2008. Each of the books (as the name of this one suggests) is set around a day in the week. The central character is a twelve-year-old asthmatic boy named Arthur Penhaligon who lives with his large adopted family. But Arthur has been chosen to be the heir of ‘The House’–the centre of the universe. One Monday, an asthma attack brings him into contact with Mister Monday, in charge of the Lower House where he finds his true fate. Here he learns that must defeat seven trustees who represent seven deadly sins, and collect keys from each in the process. The keys are not actual keys but different objects that hold equal power and can do much of what is asked of them.

In Superior Saturday, Arthur has five of the keys, and now must face a greater challenge than any he has faced before for the sixth, as Superior Saturday is the oldest and most powerful of the trustees, and also a sorcerer with tens of thousands of sorcerers at her command. She has control of the Upper House, and has been the one plotting against Arthur all along. Alongside, his home city is under attack, and he can’t rely on his allies.

This was a book I randomly picked up from the shop-soiled section at my neighbourhood bookshop since it sounded like fun. I haven’t read any of the others in the series (or any other by the author), and while the world sounds a little complicated to may be understand from a later point in the series, I’d still like to give it a try. Besides the story, what sounds interesting about the series are the literary and mythological references/allusions sprinkled all through, including Arthur himself (Penhaligon/Pendragon).

The Author: Garth Nix is a children’s and young-adult fantasy author from Australia, known for the Old Kingdom, Keys to the Kingdom, and Seventh Towers series. He has also written various standalone novels for children as well as some works for adults as well.

Have you read this series before or any other books by Garth Nix? Which one/s and how did you find them? Do you enjoy books with literary references and allusions? Which are some of your favourites (books or series)? Looking forward to your thoughts!

As always, info on the book, series, and author is from Goodreads, and Wikipedia, here, here, here and here.

Review: The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow #BookReview #Fantasy #Humour

My thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.

This is (which I didn’t realise at first) the first in a fantasy–adventure series complete with a prophecy, magic, mages, a tyrannical king, goblins, and trolls and fairies, even a storybook ‘hero’—all the usual ingredients but with a fun twist. In the Kingdom of Lohr, we meet different groups on missions, a bunch of trolls—mercenaries on the trail of someone; the group of people there are trailing, a motley lot including a mage carrying a magic sword in secret somewhere; then a third group of Kingswatch constables on the trail of poachers in the Great Untame; and alongside a lone adolescent goblin, Griff of the title, who is travelling to the city, wanting only to make a name for himself as a minstrel in a kingdom not very friendly to those not human. Alongside, on a pig farm is a young orphan boy, Arn Propp, handsome, brave, ready to stand up for injustice, in short the perfect hero who is trying to his work well (he lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousins, who in this case (not stereotypical) actually like and appreciate him) and get along in life but who suddenly also finds himself thrown in the midst of adventure, when he goes to rescue his cousin from some thugs. The paths of these groups cross and stories collide with unusual results, especially when one event throws the entire course of things on its head, and we find ourselves with an unlikely hero who has to take on the reins.

This was a really fun read for me. A couple of other reviewers of this book have mentioned how like Pratchett this book is, and that was something that came to my mind as well—the humour, and the set-up of the story while original also reminded me a lot of Pratchett, and there were moments specifically that I found myself thinking of the city watch books in particular. I enjoyed how the author picked up the elements of a typical fantasy adventure and put his own spin on it making it a very entertaining journey. Also, it isn’t just the ‘main’ twist, but there was another along the way which took me by surprise and I’d love to see how that plays out over the course of the story. Like the discworld book it specifically made me think of, Men at Arms, this one too weaves in issues of diversity, people refusing to understand each other, even listen to each other merely because they are different, and the need to look at things from each one’s point of view before taking action (more often than not violent) recklessly (not a problem of the fantasy world alone, unfortunately). The characters were also very likeable, and I liked how the author made us see things from each one’s or each group’s pov. I am keen to see where their adventures take them next and what new twists and turns the plot takes. Great fun!  Four and a half stars!