Once Upon a Time: Join the Quest!

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Yesterday I came across a new challenge on the lovely Lynn’s blog, and while I have done pretty rubbish in the challenges I set myself at the start of the year, I’m signing up.

But it’s OK, because Once Upon a Time uses the term ‘challenge’ pretty loosely and you can sign up just for ‘The Journey’….

Once Upon a Time is brought to us by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, and is in its 8th year. It’s ‘a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.’ It runs from March 21st to June 21st and you can sign up for minimal participation (1 book) in ‘The Journey’ or five other quests. Check out the original post on Stainless Steel Droppings for more info or to sign up.

I’m going for Quest the Third because I’ve been wanting to reread some Shakespeare for some time, and this is the perfect encouragement.

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Fulfill the requirements for The Journey or Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream OR a viewing of one of the many theatrical versions of the play.

So I’ll be doing The Journey (1 book min.) – even though I have quite a few books that would fall into these categories on my TBR list – because I just don’t want to commit to more given my bad start to the year where other challenges are concerned, and reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June. Fun!

Be one of us…

The Hunter, The Bear and The Seventh Sister by B.I Woolet

hunterWhen a beautiful and powerful stranger throws Jackson into the world of Arcas, his predictable midwestern life instantly vanishes into an all-consuming adventure.

The last kingdoms of Arcas possess enduring youth, beauty, and wealth but have slowly crumbled under the weight of endless apathy and a painful past.

The rising evil of Gurges Ater now threatens to reopen the ancient kingdom pillars created long ago as passageways between Earth and Arcas. With access to both worlds, Gurges Ater will quickly conquer the weak kingdoms and establish his own throne.

Can Jackson along with a paranoid bear, a lone hunter, and the surviving seventh sister work together to protect both Earth and Arcas?

Or will the unlikely heroes allow their own fears, pain, and past to paralyze them as Gurges Ater opens the pillars and claims the throne?

Leave your own world behind, dive through the shimmering portal, and join Jackson to discover the beauty, danger, and adventure awaiting you in the World of Arcas!

The Hunter, The Bear and The Seventh Sister is like an amalgamation of all my favourite childhood reads.

The way Jackson is transported into the World of Arcas with its three suns and rich history, and put on a quest to save both Arcas and Earth from the evil of Gurges Ater reminded me of both The Neverending Story and Narnia.

Then, throughout his quest, Jackson meets is a plethora of witty, magical and down-right bizarre characters like Otava, the paranoid yet loveable talking bear, the Hunter who guides him, centaurs, winged beasts, Unicorns (yay!) and not forgetting Cygnus, the angel-like being who put Jackson on his quest in the first place – all 100% reminiscent of Narnia with some splashes of The Book of Lost Things, and Alice in Wonderland in there too. Some of these characters help Jackson along the way, and some are sent to stop him.

I absolutely loved that this book was so action-packed from the beginning, the very first chapter showcases the scale of imagination that has gone into the story and it just gets better and better. I did get a bit lost from time to time, as they were between Pillars, but the writing, and inventive landscapes bought my attention back quickly.

I especially fell in love when Jackson & co reached the castle:

The castle looked as if it were under siege by the jungle around it. Moss crawled up the stone walls; vines twirled around the towering conical spirals. Untrimmed multi-coloured roses sprang wildly from the outer garden […] the inside of the castle displayed a complete contrast to the bright colours, encompassing greens, and lively disorder of the jungle outside. The world became a mirror: floor tiles, walls hangings, and chandeliers; nearly every part of the inner palace reflected back on itself”

MAGICAL!

It is here we also meet Queen Cassiopeia, with her “rainbow-colored hair…intricately woven around the diamond crown, not a strand out of place.” and “clusters of tiny, shiny ornaments sparkled off her bare arms and the sides of her eyes like stars”. Seriously guys, the descriptions really blew me away.

The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister is an epic journey, and one I couldn’t put down. I wanted to rush through it to find out if Jackson completed his quest, and if he found his way back to earth (no spoilers here, do not fret), but I do think at times there was too much going on, and I felt like the plot lost its focus slightly in parts. But that being said, this is such an enjoyable read, and one I can imagine being much loved by children and families in the same way that I still love the Narnia books.

Roll on the next book, I say!

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure: I received a copy from the Author/Publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister
Author: B.I Woolet
Details: E-Book, Paperback
Publication Date: January 28th 2014, by ArcasArts
My Rating: 4/5

Winter is Here: The Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory

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It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope.

In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads.

But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

I struggled with this book in the very beginning. I didn’t know it was going have a shifting timeline (one of my book turn-offs on this week’s TTT!) and it took me a lot to focus on it and figure out what it was actually going to be about. But how glad am I that I stuck it out? VERY, that’s how glad.

The Polaris Whisper spans from around 800 to 840 AD, so it’s not a huge shift between time per chapter, but it still took me a while to get used to it. It is also a book with many characters and story strands, but once they all started coming together I had to keep reading to find out how it was going to pan out.

There’s the two monks of Ceanannus Mór in 802 AD who start off as BFFs but a strain is put on their relationship when Tomás meets mysterious ‘Small Walker’ Cado and begins working with him on a secret project. And then around 830 there’s Vidar who gave up his son Niclaus to fulfill a quest to find the Cave of Light not knowing whether he will return. And in 840 AD Niclaus and his friends prepare for ‘The Trial’, an almighty 3 day race over perilous snow and frozen lakes in which the winner will be named as Ugter – the new village leader.

It doesn’t really sound all that exciting does it? But it is! With gory Ice Bear and Wolf attacks, the mounting unease between the small walkers and tall walkers, a cute little romance, viking raids and the imposing Norse Lord Hakon – once I got into The Polaris Whisper I was hooked.

The setting didn’t hurt either. Descriptions of the Fjords and the frozen wastelands were both harsh and beautiful and I found the writing throughout pretty much perfect.

I was particularly interested to know more about Vidar and his quest and couldn’t wait to get back to him every time it wasn’t his chapter. The Vestibule he was looking for was drenched in mystery and magic and I was urging him on to find it each time.

I also loved Cado, the Small Walker. He was definitely the glue in this story, eventually tying all of the characters together. He was also the main source of intrigue and excitement as we learn more about him and the secret magical powers he yields.

In the end, this book was a lot different to what I was expecting. I expected more of the Norse mythology in there for sure, but the direction it actually went in was welcome too.

And, I can’t talk about it because this is a spoiler-free zone but THE ENDING. There is a proper twist/revelation at the end which is amazing. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it coming, but I didn’t…I literally had my mouth open for quite some time, actually it still is a little bit. Not attractive. Please tell me there’s more???

I think this will be a favourite Winter Read of mine for some time. Wolves, Racing Sleighs, Reindeer…what’s not to like!?

Disclosure: I received a copy from the author/publisher for an HONEST review via NetGalley. Many thanks!
Details: Paperback, 457 pages, published September 25th 2013 by Blackstaff Press Ltd
Unicorn Rating: 4/5
Is it a keeper? YES! I will be buying a physical copy ASAP!
If you like this try: Game of Thrones!?

Coming Up: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)

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Title: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)
Author: Glynis Cooney
Details: Paperback, 421 pages
Expected Publication: September 24th 2013 by Mabon Publishing

Filled with terrific suspense and budding romance, Daughter of Camelot is a fast paced adventure set against the turmoil at the end of the Arthurian era.

Raised in the shadow of a fort dedicated to training Knights of the Round Table, Deirdre thirsts for adventure.

Instead, at 14, she is sent to court to learn the etiquette and talents of a young woman.

Court life, however, is more fraught with danger than she expected, and Deirdre finds herself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that stretches deep into the very heart of Camelot.

All Deirdre thought she knew and believed in—loyalty, love, bravery—is challenged when she embarks on a quest to defy Fate and save the King.

Synopsis & Image from Goodreads. Click the image to fly there.