The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller, reviewed by Tegan (16)

Alessandra is the second daughter of a wealthy man. This means that she has been overlooked her whole life. Her older sister has always been the one to go to balls and have boys fall in love with her. 

One day she convinces her father to let her attend the ball of the Shadow King. The King has never let anyone touch him however no one knows why. Alessandra is convinced she will be able to seduce and marry the king. Then, kill him in order to claim the kingdom. However, she does not take into consideration that her feelings might just get in the way. 

“I was hesitant at first when I read the blurb…however, Levenseller manages to hook the reader by keeping the suspense running all the way to the end. Overall, I loved this book.”

Tegan (16)

I was hesitant at first when I read the blurb, as it sounded like the average stereotypical enemies to lovers. However, Levenseller manages to hook the reader by keeping the suspense running all the way to the end. You learn to have mixed feelings about Alessandra but in the end, I just ended up feeling sorry for her. She thought the only way to gain her Father’s respect was to murder the king. And when she starts to develop feelings, she feels as though she cannot disclose this to him. 

Overall, I loved this book. The characters develop throughout the book in positive ways. The Shadow King learns that he can’t shut people out and Alessandra learns she can’t shut out her feelings. 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a simple read and enjoys the stories of enemies to lovers. It is not for young readers however, as it does have graphic scenes and also sexual scenes. 

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, reviewed by Farrah (16)

In a deeply patriarchal society, where young girls undergo a ‘purity ceremony’, our main character Deka is forced to lead a different life than the predetermined path set out for her, when her blood runs gold with deemed impurity.

I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences.

Farrah (16)

Snatched from her village, she is thrust into a world of battle and demons and is forced to deconstruct the indoctrinated misogyny housed in her brain, as she enters the Emperor’s army, as a special sector of the legions. Along the way she makes alliances and bands together with others, in the kinship of sisterhood, whilst also blossoming as an individual, piecing together her past and fighting for her future.

As this is a book told in first-person, I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences. The overall message and themes contained within the pages, such as the importance of friendship and defiance, with the feminist overtone make for an impactful fantasy. The world building is unique, and the characters feel fleshed out and multi-faceted. As a debut novel, this is certainly commendable.

If you are a lover of the fantasy genre, or if you are interested in trying fantasy, I would definitely recommend ‘The Gilded Ones’. The writing style is eloquent, but easy to read, and you will find yourself gripped in no time. It’s sequel, ‘The Merciless Ones’ has recently been released, and therefore if upon finishing, you are eager for more, there is a whole new novel for you to devour. If however, you would prefer to read it as a stand-alone, then ‘The Gilded Ones’ will not disappoint. The ending ties the tale together neatly,  and you could leave the story there.

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna, reviewed by Alma

One of the best books I’ve read in ages; enchanting!

Ever since her mum left her there, Cassie Morgan had been living in a strict boarding school which does NOT believe in magic. Then (several years later – convinced her mum needs to be rescued) she runs  away to her aunt in the small town of Hedgely, right next to the hedge which separates England and faerie, where she trains to be the best witch she can be and pass her fledgling test.

But can she discover why children are going missing and find them before it is too late? And will she ever get what she wants?

Hedgewitch is a magical book. The characters are realistic and the world is intriguing – I was devastated when it ended. A fun, happy story with a long lead up where you really get to know the characters. An epic climax, full of surprises and drastic plot twists; as interesting and exciting as the hedge itself!

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan and Ben Mantle

Believing is just the beginning . . .

When Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their grandad’s attic.

Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow. . .)

Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar . . . real?

We love this stunner of a book. Beautifully illustrated by Ben Mantle and with a cover that would be coveted by the most fussy of dragons, The Land of Roar looks as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.

The Land of Roar is a story with a heart. Filled with dementor-style darkness, beautifully balanced with humour and brilliantly imagined gender-stereotype-flipping characters, it perfectly captures the imagination and play of children and explores what happens to your lands of make-believe when you begin to grow up. It celebrates embracing play and imagination and not growing up too soon.

All the ingredients for the perfect reading for pleasure fantasy adventure are here; ninja wizards, mermaid witches, a band of fierce lost girls, dragons and of course, a glittering sprinkle of magic. We lost ourselves entirely in The Land of Roar

Let your walls down and allow magic in. Get your copy here.