Blog Archives

The Broken Raven by Joseph Elliott – Blog Tour Book Review

Book Covers with Viking Boat


The Broken Raven is the second book in the Shadow Skye trilogy, which started with The Good Hawk (a Carnegie medal nominee). I haven’t had a chance to review book one yet so I am going to review the series so far. Please be advised this blog post contains some spoilers for book one.


The Good Hawk Synopsis

Agatha patrols the sea wall with pride, despite those in her clan who question her right to be there, because of the condition she was born with.
Jamie is a reluctant Angler, full of self-doubt and afraid of the sea.
When disaster strikes, the pair must embark on a terrifying journey to a land where forgotten magic and dark secrets lurk in every shadow…


The Broken Raven Synopsis


Agatha and Jamie have rescued their clan and returned home to Skye as heroes. But when Agatha uncovers a threat to their people, she unwittingly releases a terrible power that could kill every living thing on the island. Jamie must race to Scotia to hunt an ancient blood magic, which may be their only chance of survival.
Meanwhile, Sigrid, a Norwegian girl with an unusual gift, journeys to the court of Ingland where a dangerous alliance is forming – one that will soon turn its vengeful eyes to Skye, Sigrid will have to risk everything if she and the people of Skye are to survive the gathering shadows…


About the Author


Joseph Elliott is a writer and actor, well-known for his work in children’s television including CBeebies series “Swashbuckle”. His commitment to serving children with special education needs was instilled at a young age: his mother is a teacher trained in special needs education, and his parents provided respite foster care for children with additional needs. He has worked at a recreational centre for children with learning disabilities and as a teaching assistant at Westminster Special Schhols. The heroine of his debut series, the Shadow Skye trilogy, was inspired by the many incredible children he has worked with, especially those with Down’s syndrome. The Good Hawk has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, on the IBBY 2022 outstanding books for children and young people with disabilities list and is long listed for the Highland Book Prize.

What I Thought


These books are set in a mythical version of Scotland with Vikingesque threats from “Norway” as well as the threat of Plague from “England” – uh hello 2020!! Oh and shadow creatures (which reminded me a little of the Grisha series).


The Good Hawk and the Broken Raven of the titles are not actually referring to animals although animals do play an important role in the series – and if you don’t want a pet vole or to ride on a a Highland Cow after reading these books I just don’t know who you are!


Agatha and Jamie live on Skye, in an almost commune like setting. Roles are allocated for each person when they reach a certain age, and many things are regulated. You do not cry, you do not marry, you don’t know who your parents are, you know your place. But despite this it doesn’t seem an unfriendly place – if you fit with the status quo that is.


Agatha presents similarly to those who have Down’s syndrome though of course that terminology is never used. I love that we get her voice front and centre in the story. She is the Hawk of the story title, a Hawk is a look out, an important role in protecting the clan, until she isn’t anymore. Agatha also has another thing she is good at, but one that she is urged to keep secret. But that will become very important to their survival.


Jamie has the weight of the world on his shoulders and it tells. An anxious sort he has been allocated two roles that are not right for him but he bears them as he has been taught to. He is drawn to things he shouldn’t be – the wrong job, the wrong person… The bird that represents him is a Heron.


Sigrid, our Raven, joins them as a point of view character in book two and boy does her voice just leap from the page. She has such a fun dialect. She also has a superb memory – am I jealous – yes!


I think it’s worth mentioning that The Good Hawk does also introduce another point of view character. Initially this character is a mystery and it was a little jarring but it does pay off so stick with it – just store your questions up and they do get answered.


And one of my favourite characters isn’t a POV character so I won’t name them but I wonder if you can guess who it is.


In book one Agatha and Jamie work very much together but book two sees all three point of view characters take on their own journey. Although it was good to see them each take the spotlight I hope book three pulls them all back together again – I also hope we don’t have to wait too long for it to come out.


Despite the youth of the characters the plot is quite grisly in places and I think Joseph Elliott has taken a leaf out of George R R Martin’s book. Expect the unexpected. There is very real and present danger creating a tense atmosphere.


This series is fresh and it shows what originality diversity can bring. We have disability, mental health and LGBTQ+ representation and I love how the different clans and people see and deal with these things in a variety of ways. Glimpses of how things could be if difference was respected.


The characters are definitely the driving force in this series but the plot does make you whip through at pace, I definitely felt my heart pounding a few times wanting to know what happened next. I definitely recommend this series and I also look forward to hearing more form this author in future.


Finally can we give a shout out to Levente Szabo and Violet Tobacco for the stunning cover illustrations.


Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour. Thanks to Rebecca at Walker for the gifted copy of The Broken Raven and to Book Box Club for introducing me to book one. Book three is already on my TBR and I’m guessing that maybe we get a Heron in the title!

Blog Tour Poster

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein – Guest Post – Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends?

Continuing with the spooky theme – today I have a guest post from Sarah Epstein author of psychological thriller Small Spaces.

Synopsis

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

Author

Sarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about YA, especially the thriller genre, which is her favourite to read. Small Spaces is her first novel.

Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends? by Sarah Epstein

Imaginary friends have always fascinated me. And while I don’t remember having one myself as a child, I’ve encountered plenty of people who did. When my own kids were small and attending playgroup and kindergarten, I’d hear stories from mothers about how they’d overheard their child’s one-sided conversations in the bath, or how their child’s invisible friend had to have a place set at the dinner table. I’d always think, where do these imaginary friends come from? Are they tied to emotional issues, loneliness or just boredom? Are they coping mechanisms, a cry for attention, or even, as some suggest, a spiritual presence that a child’s mind is open enough to see?

It was a subject I wanted to explore in a story. But in many ways I’ve been writing about imaginary friends for years – my own. The characters I create who tell me their story.

In Small Spaces, I wrote about my protagonist Tash’s experiences with her imaginary friend, Sparrow, both as a young child and as a teenager. To do this, I had to understand Tash’s character inside and out – her hopes, dreams, fears and faults – so I could figure out how she would react to the appearance of Sparrow and the situations his presence would put her through.

In a sense, Tash became my imaginary friend, because she was constantly talking in my head. She was with me while I walked my dog, took showers, and late at night when I was trying to switch my brain off to go to sleep. For writers, this is nothing new. Our characters are shadowing us everywhere we go, especially during the drafting stage of a novel when we’re trying to work out exactly who they are. You imagine how they look, speak, think and act, who they are closest to in the world, and what makes them angry or afraid. Soon they become more than just fictional characters – they become friends we are passionate about. They become friends we are rooting for, friends who are keeping us company on our writing journey as well as actively driving our stories.

And, until readers discover these characters, they are friends created in our imagination that no one else can see.

Is this so different from the imaginary friends some of us invented during childhood? If they were created for company, entertainment, comfort or even a bit of attention, perhaps it’s not so different at all. And while I may not set a place for Tash at my dinner table, or hold a conversation with her in the bath, she’s always with me, tucked away inside my head.

Thanks so much to Sarah for this insight into how characters can ‘live and breathe’ for the writer. Hope everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo has picked nice people to spend the next month with

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton – Book Review

Synopsis

All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.

Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.

A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.

Author

Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.

Twitter @LeslyeWalton

What I Thought

Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.

The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.

Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.

There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.

We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).

Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.

Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.

%d bloggers like this: