Category Archives: fantasy

Guest Post: Juliet Jacka on Night of the Perigee Moon

Think up your best insult, and be in to win a copy of Juliet Jacka’s award-winning Night of the Perigee Moon.

Do you like magical talents, talking cats, dogs and bats? Or how about fantastical feasts, yo-yo masters and entomologists in the making?

Then my book’s for you. Here’s the blurb.

All Tilly Angelica wants for her thirteenth birthday is to be normal! But with her changeover party looming and her mad, magical family gathering from near and far, Tilly is set to inherit a terrifying or tantalising talent of her own. But what if she inherits Hortense’s talent of super-smelling, with an oversize nose to match?

As the enchanted Angelicas gather and Arial Manor becomes a madhouse, Tilly’s troubles are tripled by her creepy cousin Prosper, and his sinister plot to bewitch the family by harnessing the powers of the Perigee Moon.

Halfway through the book, my heroine Tilly has to come up with a hit list of inventive insults. Here are three of her favourite ones.

“You’re an ox, an ass, a slubberdegullion!”

“You belligerent fleck of llama spit.”

“Earth vexing hedge pig.”

Can you come up with something similar? Send me your best one-liners (no rude words, thanks!), and the winner gets a free, signed copy of my book.

Have fun! Get inventive. Then email me at nightofperigeemoon@gmail.com

Juliet
Night of the Perigee Moon, winner of the 2013 Tom Fitzgibbon Award.

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House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat.  Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me.  I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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Win Red Rocks by Rachael King

Rachael King’s fantastic children’s book, Red Rocks, was recently named as a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  Since then, it has also been named a Storylines Notable Book and been nominated in the Best Youth Novel category for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards (for science fiction, fantasy and horror writing).

Thanks to Random House New Zealand I have 3 copies of Red Rocks to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Sunday 5 May (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Adrienne, Cushla and Lynley.

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2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I love the world of Fontania that Barbara introduced us to in The Traveling Restaurant.  I reviewed it in September last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.  You can also read my interview with Barbara Else and Barbara’s guest post about The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

Last year, Barbara Else took us on a magical journey through the land of Fontania, with Sibilla and The Traveling Restaurant.  Now she takes us back to Fontania and introduces us to some wonderful new characters in The Queen and the Nobody Boy.

Hodie is the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania.  Fed-up, he decides to leave and better himself.

The young Queen, 12 -year-old Sibilla, is fed-up too.  Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a magical story, full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, stinky trolls and poisonous toads. Trouble is brewing from the very beginning of the story.  The Emperor of Um’Binnia threatens war with Fontania and he hopes to destroy what magic there may be in the world.  The Fontanians have been looking for ‘The Ties’ for many years, but nobody really seems to know what they are, and for the Emperor to carry out his plans he must get his hands on them too.  Little do they know how important an odd-job boy might be.

Your favourite characters from The Travelling Restaurant return, including Sibilla and the pirate chef, Murgott.  Hodie is the main character of this tale of Fontania.  Even though he’s not treated very well in the Palace, he’s smart and brave, and determined to make something of himself.   My favourite quote from the book sums up Hodie, ‘Whether a boy was somebody or nobody, if he was normal he was expected to be curious.’  Hodie and Sibilla meet lots of other interesting characters on their journey, including a rather strange Um’Binnian spy called Ogg’ward, and a very persistent squirrel.  The Um’Binnians themselves are quite interesting.  They have a different way of speaking and their names look and sound strange.

If you loved The Traveling Restaurant you have to get your hands on The Queen and the Nobody Boy, but if you haven’t read it this book will make you fall in love with the land of Fontania.  You certainly won’t be able to go past this book on the shelf without wanting to see what magic is inside, thanks to Sam Broad’s brilliant cover.

4 out of 5 stars

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W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin book trailer

W.A.R.P. (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme) is Eoin Colfer’s new series.  The Reluctant Assassin is the first book in the series and is released later this month by Penguin Books NZ.  It sounds like it’s going to be a great series and perfect for fans of his Artemis Fowl series.

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The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy

One of the things I love the most about Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series is the cast of brilliantly named characters.  The series focuses on Skulduggery and Valkyrie as they fight to save the world from the forces of evil, but I’ve often wished that I could see more of particular characters.  I can imagine them getting in to all sorts of trouble when Skulduggery isn’t around.  I’m obviously not the only one who wished for this, as Derek has written a stand-alone book that focuses specifically on Tanith Low, once a hero but now a villain with a Remnant inside her.  Tanith and her gang of evil-doers go up against a group of rogue Sanctuary agents in Derek’s latest book, The Maleficent Seven.

This time, the bad guys take the stage. Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains – many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures – in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerers, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mister Ghastly Bespoke. When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she’s got her own double-crosses to plan – and she’s a villain herself…

There is no Skulduggery or Valkyrie in sight in The Maleficent Seven but I loved it and it’s got everything that makes the Skulduggery books so great.  Some of my favourite minor characters in the series are major players in this book, especially Tanith and Billy-Ray Sanguine. Tanith and Billy-Ray have an unusual relationship – you don’t expect villains to use the word ‘love’ and be cutesy with each other.  There are other characters who have also popped up in the other books in the series that you find out more about too, and not all of them make it to the end of the story (which is pretty normal for a Derek Landy book).  I like that this book focuses mostly on the villains, rather than the heroes.  You don’t often get to see things from their perspective so it makes a nice change.  The major villain is, of course, Tanith Low, who we haven’t seen much of in the last few books, and the whole story centers around her.  As well as the main story of tracking down the God-Killer level weapons, Derek gives us a glimpse of Tanith’s origins.  You see her as pre-Sanctuary Tanith as well as Remnant-host Tanith.

The main reason I love Derek’s writing is because of his wicked sense of humour.  The dialogue is great and his characters have some very entertaining conversations.  There are some hilarious lines in this book and I just have to share a couple.

‘There are plenty of things I’d insult before getting to your intelligence, Johann.  Your beard for one.  It looks like the beards of Fu Manchu and Ming the Merciless mated, and their bizarre offspring crawled on to your face and died on your chin.’

‘”You zapped your own brain?”

“And it didn’t do me any harm apart from the dizziness and the vomiting spells and the weirdly persistent ringing in my ears.  Also the blackouts and the mood swings and the creeping paranoia.  Apart from that, zero side effects, if you don’t count numb fingertips.  Which I don’t.”‘

If you’re a fan of the Skulduggery Pleasant series I’m sure you’ll love The Maleficent Seven as much as I did.   You don’t have to have read any of the other books in the series to enjoy this one, so it would be a great book to hook kids in to the series.

5 out of 5 stars

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Interview with Anna Mackenzie

Today I have the pleasure of being joined by New Zealand author, Anna Mackenzie.  Anna is the author of the award-winning The Sea-wreck Stranger, and her latest book, Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman. I love Cattra’s Legacy and I asked Anna a few questions about her fantastic new story and the life of a writer.

  • What inspired you to write Cattra’s Legacy?

The novel began with a single idea, a visual image initially, of a girl alone at a graveside. That idea could have gone many different ways, but my daughter had just begun to read fantasy novels, so I decided I would write one for her, from that starting point. That gave me the direction, and the story soon took over.

  • How did you build the world of the story? Did you know what it looked like and what the history of the world was before you started writing?

Elgard opened out before me just as it does for Risha. I was sometimes a step ahead, but a small one, and every now and then we would both be surprised. About six or seven chapters in I sketched a rough map which I added to as I wrote. The map on page 7 is a tidy version of that, created using computer software rather than a pen so that it’s more legible for readers. In terms of the history of Elgard, I had a broad sense of it as soon as I knew Pelon had been a scholar – about the time Risha began to read his manuscript – but some of the regional details became clear to me only after reaching LeMarc.

  • Did you get to do any fun or interesting research before you wrote the story, like weapons training or horse riding?

I rode farm horses when I was growing up, but it wasn’t really my thing. That said, my earliest memories include the creak of saddle leather and the smell of horse and hot summer: my father used to sit me in front of him on the saddle as he rode around the farm – I guess between the ages of 2 and 4.

As for weapons training, I’ve learned both martial arts and archery in the past. All knowledge is useful in writing!

  • The story is ultimately about the legacy that a mother leaves for her daughter.  What legacy would you like to leave for your daughter?

 My aim as a parent is to instil in my kids a confidence in themselves, the knowledge that they are loved and valued for who they are, and the bravery to fight for what they believe in.

  • Which of your own personality traits have you given Risha?

Determination. I don’t tend to give up (even when I probably should!). It’s an essential skill for a writer, and for many other things. Some people call it stubbornness.

  • Risha is a strong female character that teenage girls can look up to.  Do you feel that New Zealand young adult literature is lacking in these strong female characters?

No. Given the size of our market there is a fairly small crop of YA books published each year. Some years there will be more of one type of book than another, but feisty female characters are a feature of New Zealand’s YA literary landscape – and certainly of my work.

  • The advice that a lot of writer’s give is ‘write the sort of books that you would like to read.’  Is this the case with Cattra’s Legacy?  If so, what other books can you recommend to those who love Cattra’s Legacy?

I read very widely and this is a story I loved discovering as I wrote it. For readers who are looking for similar adventure fantasy, try Cynthia Voight’s Elske, Celine Kiernan’s Moorehawke trilogy, The Merlin Conspiracy and Dalemark quartet by Diana Wynne-Jones and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy.

  • What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is getting to live dozens of different lives through the experiences of my characters – writing a new story is just like that feeling when you are completely wrapped up in reading and have to be dragged reluctantly away.
The worst thing is far too much time spent sitting at a desk: it’s seriously bad for you, but sometimes I have to be dragged away from there too!

Check out my review of Cattra’s Legacy here on the blog and enter to win a copy.

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Ned Vizzini and Chris Colombus discuss House of Secrets

House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini is released in May by HarperCollins NZ.  Chris Colombus is the creator of some of my favourite kids movies, including Goonies, Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire, so I’m really looking forward to reading his first children’s book.  The idea of the story sounds really interesting so I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be great!

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Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie

Risha is strong and outspoken, and at 16 has developed into a leader of men, a strategic thinker, and a woman — one can imagine — who will assume the legacy left by her mother.

The story begins with 13-year-old Risha living a simple life in the mountains with her father. When her father suddenly dies, Risha is left alone, an outcast of her village. Disguised as a boy, Risha leaves the village with a group of traders, on a quest to find out the truth about her mother and her heritage.

Here begins a grand sweeping adventure as Risha is caught up in dangerous pursuits, intrigue, trickery and betrayal. She is left for dead, confused by the actions of many, and is made to hide from those who wish her harm.

She finds out by chance that she is Cattra’s daughter. Who is Cattra — and why do so many wish Risha harm?

Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman.  Risha’s world is full of secrets, lies, promises, danger, strategy, rescue missions, and plenty of fighting.  Anna has created Elgard, a world that is both beautiful and harsh, and she takes Risha from one corner of the land to another.  From her rocky mountain home of Torfell where she has grown up, Risha travels through the busy city of Caledon, the Lacstone Marshes and the Citadel at LeMarc.  As you delve further into the story you discover the politics of Elgard, the struggle for power between the various rulers, and the enormity of the task that Risha has ahead of her.  There was one particular part of the story, when Risha and Torfell are going through the marshes, that reminded me of the Swamps of Sadness scene from one of my favourite movies, The Neverending Story.  It’s a heart-breaking part of both the movie and Anna’s book, and I’d love to know if this part of the story is a tribute to that movie or just a coincidence.

Risha is a wonderful character who grows so much throughout the story, and she grew on me more and more as the story progressed.  She starts off as a timid young girl who lives a quiet life with her father in the mountains of Torfell, but the events of the story mean she has to grow up fast.  She grows in to a fierce and powerful young woman, who is very self-assured and you wouldn’t want to cross her.  You know that she is going to become a strong, but kind leader of her people and will do everything in her power to unite the people of Elgard.  One thing I really like about her is that she’s really focused on her duties.  Even though she could have her pick of the males around her, romance isn’t her number one priority.  I’m sure that romance will come in to the other books that are to follow in the series.

Between Cattra’s Legacy and R.L. Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, there certainly isn’t going to be a shortage of strong female main characters for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and see how Risha develops even further.  I certainly know that Risha is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

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The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz

Do you have a bad dream that will not go away?
Are you afraid to sleep at night?
Call the Sleepwalkers!
Write us a letter, put it under your pillow…and we will come a save you!
Have a good night!

It is almost time for the old and tired Sleepwalkers to return to the waking world. But before they go, they must conjure and train three new replacements. For who else will look after the Sleepwalking House and be there to answer the call of a child frozen stiff with fear, trapped in a nightmare? This is the story of the NEW Sleepwalkers.

I’m a huge fan of Viviane Schwarz’ books (There Are Cats in This Book, Cheese Belongs to You) so you can imagine how excited I was when I read on Twitter that she was working on her very first graphic novel.

The Sleepwalkers is a unique and delightfully strange story about a group of creatures who protect children while they sleep.  The Sleepwalkers are conjured from socks, a bedspread and even a quill and are tasked with saving children from their nightmares and bad dreams.  When they are created, they find themselves in the Safe House, a many-roomed house that exists in the world of dreams.  They leave the Safe House when they are needed and return here after they have completed their mission.  When the Sleepwalkers meet the children they are having a nightmare (being chased by rats or falling from the sky), and it is the job of the Sleepwalkers to help them overcome their fears.  A nightmare about falling from the sky turns into a dream about flying on the backs of dinosaurs.  The story is weird and wonderful, and it’s filled with action and adventure.

Viviane’s style of illustration translates well to this graphic novel format and she lets her imagination run wild in the dream world.  One of the reasons I like her illustrations so much is the wonderful expressions she gives her characters and this really shines through in The Sleepwalkers.  I love Bonifacius, the bear-like character because he’s got such an expressive face.  There are times in the story where doesn’t talk for a page or two and you can tell exactly how he’s feeling because of these expressions.

My favourite thing about The Sleepwalkers (and the thing that makes this graphic novel really special) is the added extras that Viviane has put in the book.  You can learn how to make a sock monkey and a banana milkshake, and she’s drawn a detailed diagram of the Safe House and the Turtlemobile.

If you know a kid that’s looking for a new and exciting comic of graphic novel, with plenty of action, adventure and a little bit of magic, then grab a copy of The Sleepwalkers.

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