Monthly Archives: March 2019

Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson – Book Review

I recently hosted a guest post from author Lindsay Littleson, which you can read here. I’ve now read Guardians of the Wild Unicorns and am back with my review.

Synopsis

Lewis is cold, wet and miserable on his school residential trip in the Highlands of Scotland. The last thing he expects to see is a mythical creature galloping across the bleak moorland. Unicorns aren’t real… are they?

Lewis and his best friend Rhona find themselves caught up in a dangerous adventure to save the world’s last herd of wild unicorns. Fighting against dark forces, battling the wild landscape, and harnessing ancient magic, can they rescue the legendary creatures in time?

Author

Lindsay Littleson is a primary school teacher in Renfrewshire, Scotland. After taking up writing for children in early 2014, she won the Kelpies Prize for new Scottish writing for children with her first children’s novel, The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean.

What I Thought

I loved this book. Particularly the realistic friendship between Lewis and Rhona.

It starts with poor Lewis dangling from a cliff on a school adventure trip. Except he’d much rather be inside with a good book – I’m with him there! His best friend Rhona is much more adventurous and is trying to bolster his confidence, leading to a line that gave me an image that made me snort laugh. And when you are dangling an inch away from death your life flashes before your eyes or unicorns do!?

Chapters are told alternately from Lewis’ and Rhona’s points of view and cleverly enable the reader to see their inner insecurities. But we also see how they both keep these from, and share them with the other, over the course of them working together and building even more trust in each other.

The conservation storyline is really important and I think that using mythological creatures highlights their rarity and increases the suspense. The children have to outwit some very misguided and/or nasty characters to prevent the unicorn’s re-extinction. This would make an excellent book for class discussion on conservation as well as being a gripping and human story. It also deals with themes such as anxiety and young carers and will speak to children that may not fully see themselves in the many overly brave and outgoing books characters there are.

The use of the Scottish setting and smattering of dialect was a great touch and the publisher DiscoverKelpies is focused on publishing books with a Scottish twist. It is amazing how reading about books set near you or to places you’ve been can add to the magic.

I will leave you with the fact that a group of unicorns is called a blessing. As was reading this book.

Thank you to Kirsten at Floris Books/Discover Kelpies who #gifted me the copy of Guardians of the Wild Unicorns used for this honest review and again to Lindsay for the earlier Guest Post.

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Who Let the Gods Out? By Maz Evans – Book Series Review

The fourth and final book in the Who Let the Gods Out? series was recently released and I’ve whipped through all four books this week.

  • Who Let The Gods Out?
  • Simply The Quest
  • Beyond the Odyssey
  • Against All Gods

Book 1 Synopsis

When Elliot wished upon a star, he didn’t expect a constellation to crash into his dungheap.

Virgo thinks she’s perfect. Elliot doesn’t. Together they release Thanatos, evil Daemon of Death. Epic fail.

They need the King of the Gods and his noble steed. They get a chubby Zeus and his high horse Pegasus.

Are the Gods really ready to save the world? And is the world really ready for the Gods?

Each book sees a quest to find one of the four Chaos Stones. Will Elliot get them and everything else he wants?

Select Characters

Elliot – 12 year old Elliot is our protagonist and he is a boy who, like Atlas, has the world on his shoulders. Kind, considerate and conflicted.

Virgo – 1,000ish year old Constellation in the body of a young girl sneaks down to earth trying to do an optimal job but discovers that maybe she’s not always right.

Hermes – the messenger god is I think, my favourite character. Hippy surfer dude type. Substitute older brother. Catchphrases includes Bosh and Boom.

Josie – Elliot’s mum. Josie Hooper is a single mother by circumstance, but she’s not well. Clearly experiencing an early onset dementia she cares for Elliot deeply and he for her. His love for Josie drives the whole story.

Zeus – King of the Gods. Flirt, womaniser but really a softie with a good heart of not the most strategic mind.

Thanatos – Our big bad. Daemon of death. Finally released from his imprisonment in Stonehenge he is now after the Chaos Stones to take over the mortal world, and get rid of most of the mortals.

Patricia Porshley-Plum – The real big bad. Umbridge’s posher sister. Mortal. Wants to buy Home Farm Elliot and Jodie’s home, and she doesn’t really mind what she has to do to get it. Nicknamed Horse’s Bum but deserves worse.

Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family – once you’ve read Maz’s take on the Royals you will never look at them in quite the same way. Like Dahl’s Sophie and the BFG seek support from the Queen, now she’s obviously had some practice and is more prepared to handle the supernatural than ever before.

Puns

From the titles which are all punny takes on song titles to accessories such as iGods, literal toilet humour and Ares Sean Connery accent there is plenty to raise a smile for children and adults. And if your kids don’t go around crying Snordlesnot after reading this I’d be very surprised. It’s also beautifully British.

Greek Mythology

As well as the characters named above there are a whole host of others from Greek mythology and they are highly recognisable with their unique characters and situations slotted perfectly into the plot. From morose emo-rocker Jason to poor Sisyphus battling with his boulder, every character earns their place on the page.

Topical

As an adult reading a book series aimed at the 8-12 year old reader there is much to enjoy. The Zodiac council is a commentary on modern politics, and if you are a fan of Marvel’s Avengers the gods have to be the original superheroes.

Totes emotional with ocular leakage

I expected this series to be funny and it is. There were numerous laugh out loud and big grin moments whilst reading but I wasn’t expecting the emotional rollercoaster I got towards the end of book 3 and I think I spent around one third of book 4 in tears. Maz made one particularly brave decision which I was hoping she would make and then was really emotionally taken aback when she did. This series is full of heart and I urge you to read it to/with kids or alone.

Nice touch

Barry Cunningham on behalf of the publisher Chicken House adds a message to the front of each of their books explaining why they picked the book and what the reader has to look forward to. I think this is a lovely and really unique touch and helps build excitement through the series.

The Author

Maz is as humorous and full of energy in real life as her books might indicate. She narrated the audiobooks herself and having heard her talk at a couple of signings I think she will have done a cracking job. Maz is an author keen to undertake school visits and will provide an entertaining and educational opportunity discussing writing craft and generally making the kids smile. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

And that’s my review. In short. I loved them. Read them. Boom!

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