The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill – Review


Goodreads link



The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.


Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.


To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bear the truth – or will it destroy him?


Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…

What I Thought

When I found out about this book it sounded right up my street and I was really intrigued by the premise of vanishing people.

I feel really bad that this review is coming well after the release date but for some reason it seemed to take me a whole month to read this book, and I don’t think that’s entirely the book’s fault. Everytime I picked it up I enjoyed what I was reading – I even took it along to the beach to read a few chapters.


The language in this was so good, and I’m pretty sure there are a few more words in the world after this book, such as ‘psychomotherapractologisteopath’.

The mystery of the opening where people are vanishing and Max is trying to find out what is happening was intriguing, and the Book House setting was particularly appealing.

When the action shifted from the World to The Beginning Woods it threw me off I think, and I also got a little confused about which reality the action was taking place in at times, but I think that’s because I was reading it in bits.

Max’s search for his forever parents and his constant question ‘who am I’ didn’t resolve in quite the way I expected – which isn’t a bad thing.

My favourite relationship in the book was between Max and Martha – the ghost girl he befriends. It reminded me a little of the graphic novel Saga.

The book has been compared to Gormenghast and Labyrinth, neither of which I’ve actually read, though I have seen. I think those are fair comparisons and there is definitely an element of the surreal in The Beginning Woods.

I couldn’t decide whether to give this 3 or 3.5 stars and if you like fantasy that gets you thinking about the meaning of reality then I would recommend it. I think my brain wasn’t in the right headspace for the slightly more challenging read that this was.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan – Blog Tour (Review)

shadow-magicAdd Shadow Magic to your Goodreads shelf


Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.


Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?


Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.




Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.                                 *Tintagel, in case you were wondering.




What I Thought

Well, I couldn’t defy Rick Riordan – I loved this story.

This is a fantastic addition to the fantasy genre aimed at younger readers (with much older ones able to enjoy it just as much).

Lily and Thorn are both great lead characters and immediately make you want to invest in their story. And, what a story. It’s full of twists and turns and working out who is good and who isn’t (like anything is that simple anyway) will keep you guessing. I found myself questioning my mind many times. The only one slight frustration I had was how easily the characters jumped to conclusions at times, but I will forgive them this time.

There are three key animal sidekicks in this and each play an important role in the story, there’s a clue to my favourite one on the front cover.

There is clearly a lot more to know about this world and the magic within in but the information is being given to us piece and piece, when necessary, and makes you want more. So I’m very happy to say there will be at least two more books in this series. Dream Magic comes out in 2017 and Burning Magic has been announced too.

If you like…Seven reasons you will love Shadow Magic

  1. Books in mapssm-map
  2. Abraxos in the Throne of Glass series – Hades is very coolsm-with-bat
  3. Mia’s magic in Nevernight
  4. Game of Thrones (for a MG audience)
  5. A feministy slant to your books – women aren’t allowed to do magic – What?!
  6. Spooky castles with secret tunnels
  7. Graveyards, ghosts and zombies

Scholastic are really doing well on their acquisition of middle grade fantasy. Looking forward to reading more.

Check out the rest of the tour on the blogs below


I received a copy of the book from the publisher but as ever the review and opinion on the book is ALL MINE.


A response to The Urban Astronaut by @HighlySprung #bythesea16

We are choking off

Our air supply

Our freedom of…

Ripping up

Ripping out

Laying waste to even

The earth we walk on

Isolated from


Each other 

Can isolated effort be enough

If we each plant a seed

Tend to it

Protect it

From invasion 

Show others its importance 

To our health and happiness 

Dance to its beat 

And our own inner tune

Ignore government 

Telling us we’re British 

Not European

Take that giant leap

And shout

We’re humankind 

Kind humans 

Listening to

Living with 

Caring for

Each other

Our planet 

Urban astronauts 

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