Thursday 10 August 2023

Two Middle Grade sequels to get excited about...

 Crookhaven: The Forgotten Maze by J.J. Arcanjo

Link to publisher

Published by: Hachette, 17th August 2023


Crookhaven: School For Thieves got 2023 off to a cracking start. Now, after eagerly reading the second book in the series, which is due to be released next week, I have only one word to describe it: seamless - rather like the crooks themselves.

Gabriel Avery is returning to Crookhaven for his second year. But with an impossible break-in to negotiate and a forgotten maze to conquer, the challenges facing him and his crew appear insurmountable. 

But one thing Gabriel has is confidence. If anyone can do it, surely they can? But perhaps Gabriel needs to be wary of attracting too much attention...

Building on the first novel, J.J. Arcanjo weaves an hypnotic and enthralling storytelling web with criss-crossing strands that all intersect brilliantly. Ensnaring the reader with a cast of loveable characters and a razor-sharp plot which is hard to put down, there's banter, danger, mystery, deception and some seriously epic teamwork. I loved the loyalty of Gabriel, the softness of Amira and the hilarity of the Crim Brothers, which is completed by the gruff but vulnerable genius that is Penelope. There's also a great cast of teachers and various other adult characters that bring either an extra layer danger or warmth. 

Crookhaven is an edgy, familiar-yet-unique take on a boarding school set-up. Great for fans of Harry Potter or Skandar, it is also a great choice for those that love villainy and the darker side of adventure. Yet, the Robin Hood concept also gives the book a moral slant and offers up a great point for discussion: is doing wrong justified when you're trying to put things right? 

I'm certainly counting down the months until the next instalment in this quest for justice.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing us a review copy. Crookhaven: The Forgotten Maze is released on 17th August 2023. 

Ember Shadows and the Lost Deserts of Time by Rebecca King

Link to publisher

Published by: Hachette, 17th August 2023


After reviewing Rebecca King's debut novel last year, the sequel to Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never was one I was particularly looking forward to. A fantastic fantasy for perhaps the lower end of middle grade, I was taken aback by Rebecca King's fantastic world-building, her fun Wizard of Oz type characters and her incredibly clever concept centred around Fate. Building on that was surely going to be tough...

But, apparently not! Ember Shadows and the Lost Desert of Time is a breathtaking journey through a parallel world which stunned me with its imagination. As Rebecca King moves us away from Mount Never, we are introduced to a recognisable but different world; one which is full of ingenuity, wondrous magic and delightful detail. I particularly loved The Tremoring Tropics and Emocean, which showcases Rebecca King's incredible talent for wordplay - or should I say worldplay? I also found, as with the first novel, that even though the concept is a very thought-provoking and serious one, every page oozes with energy and joy, as though the author has enjoyed every second of creating and writing this series. 

And yet, don't be fooled. The concept of Fate is a tricky one and Rebecca King has left no stone unturned in her brilliant exploration of the subject. I particularly love that in this novel, Ember is struggling with the consequences of her actions in Book One and is forced to question the morality of her decisions. This offers up so many opportunities for young readers to engage in interesting discussions on what is a deep and complex topic.

As well as the favourites from the first novel, also prepare to meet some great new characters. Nick is particularly fun whereas Lacey made the hairs on my arms prickle. This is an author who knows and loves every inch of the incredible world she has created - maybe it was that and not Lacey which actually gave me goosepimples. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing me a review copy. Ember Shadows and The Lost Desert of Time is released on 17th August. 

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