The Invisible Hand by James Hartley #BookReview #YA

 

Title: The Invisible Hand theinvis
Author:
 James Hartley
Series: Shakespeare’s Moon #1
Format: Paperback, 168 pages
Publication Details: February 22nd 2017 by Lodestone Books

Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeares Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

Review

I’ve always really liked Shakespeare – even at school – which is strange because I remember hating most things I was forced to read for school. Shakespeare always seemed more interesting though. I enjoyed having to decipher the language to discover the meaning, but I also totally understand why people dislike it, and why children and young adults find it difficult.

I’m therefore always pleased to see more accessible books based on Shakespeare, and its modern-day retellings. The Invisible Hand is the first in a new series to be set in the same boarding school, with each book based upon a different Shakespeare play. In this case it’s Macbeth.

In this short novel, Sam is quite perturbed about his strange, vivid dreams where he finds himself in Scotland in what seems like medieval times. Whilst trying to make sense of the dreams, he’s also trying to keep his head down at the boarding school but is finding it increasingly harder to concentrate in the present day. Especially when the girl he has a crush on in his dreams starts to turning up at school.

Things get even weirder when Sam starts studying Macbeth in English and the events of the play bear more than a passing resemblance to Sam’s dreams that may not be dreams after all.

The Invisible Hand was a great introduction to Macbeth. It was a simple but action-packed story which uses some of the events in Macbeth and gives them a modern relevance. I enjoyed it a lot. It was fun and speedy. If I had one thing to criticise though, it would be that I wished Hartley had taken it further. I wanted more Shakespeare, more detail. It was too short!

The Invisible Hand has certainly piqued my interest however, and I would love to see what they do with other Shakespeare plays. I definitely think there is room for more Shakespeare inspired YA novels like this to show that it’s not all about archaic language and ruffled collars.

unicorn rating 4

 

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Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

2016debuts4Title: Into the Dim
Author: Janet B. Taylor
Series: Into the Dim #1
Format: Digital ARC, 432 pages
Publication Details: March 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Historical; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review

Goodreads // Purchase

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. 

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail,Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens. 

Review

I fell in love with both the cover of this book and the premise as soon as I spotted it. I know that time-travel books have become a bit of a trend recently and some people seem to have a downer on them, but this is the first one I’ve read for a while and I really loved it!

Hope Walton is a really interesting protagonist. She has an eidectic memory and severe claustrophobia. She has just attended the funeral of her mother knowing the coffin is empty; her mum is presumed dead but Hope is still not convinced.

So when her mum’s parents get in touch and ask Hope to spend the summer with them at their manor in Scotland, Hope is both terrified (the flying) and excited (at the prospect of finding out more about her mum’s so-called death).

I loved that Hope was vulnerable. She isn’t physically strong, or overly brave, or daring, but she’s clever, resourceful, and head-strong. She doesn’t give up. When she arrives at the manor, she didn’t expect to make friends, but she does, easily, and I liked that this gave her confidence. 

Hope gets more than she bargains for when she discovers that her Scottish side of the family are part of a secret band of time-travellers, and that her mum is in fact lost in the past. There’s a whole lot more to it than that, but we follow Hope and her new friends on a dangerous journey to find her mum and bring her back. 

I loved the setting, the plot was interesting and a whole lot of fun, but mostly, I enjoyed the writing. Taylor’s words grabbed me instantly; she had such a vivid way of describing things in ways that I’d not seen before. It was totally unique and beautiful to read. 

I enjoyed each of the characters and their very different strengths and weakness, including Bran – the love interest – who kept me guessing, but was swoon-worthy throughout.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Scottish dialogue used – it was a bit OTT at times, but other than that, I thought this was a great YA time-travelling romp through history. 

I’ve been wanting to read Outlander for a while now, but it’s such an investment of time. At 432 pages, Into the Dim isn’t short by any means, but it certainly felt it – it was a page-turner! 

I look forward to the next instalment!

unicorn rating 4

P.S I have no idea what some of the reviews on Goodreads are all about. I glanced at one which claims Into the Dim is ‘cliched, slut-shaming drivel’, I couldn’t disagree more but I’m sure we can all make our own minds up 🙂

The Ring of Morgana by Donna Hosie

ringofmorgana
Title: The Ring of Morgana
Author: Donna Hosie
Series: The Children of Camelot #1
Edition: Kindle, 310 pages
Publication Details: April 28th 2014
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; Arthurian
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads // Purchase

Sixteen-year-old Mila Roth wants to be normal. It’s a phrase that has been drilled into her by her mother since she was born.

But Mila Roth is anything but normal. For sixteen years her parents have hidden a secret from her. For Mila was born one thousand years ago in the land of Logres, and far from being a math teacher and a housewife, Mila’s parents are the awakened King Arthur and Gorian druid queen, Morgana.

Two worlds, one thousand years apart. And those worlds are about to collide.

The spirit of the malevolent Lady of the Lake has been contained for sixteen years in the fabled Ring of Morgana. When the ring curses Mila’s younger sister, Lilly, the Roth family has no choice but to return Mila to the land of her birth as they face a battle against time itself.

Accompanied by her best friend, Rustin, Mila will have to decide whether to defy those she loves in order to save her sister. Should she trust the Gorian druids and the mysterious Melehan? What is the true cost to Mila’s heart as she strives to master the purple flame? And why have her mother and father denied the truth of her origins for so long?

For she alone has the combined power of royalty and druid magic within her.

And now only Mila can save Lilly and Logres.

Review


I’m a big fan of Arthurian literature and love that there’s a market for it in the YA genre.

The Ring of Morgana was my first Donna Hosie read, but I’ll definitely be checking out her other series (The Return to Camelot) as well.

On paper, The Ring of Morgana sounds a bit ridiculous. Mila’s dad is the one and only King Arthur, who found a portal into another world, a modern world, and decided to leave Camelot to start afresh there with the once evil Morgana.

When Mila and her little sister Lilly find a strange glowing ring which begs them to try it on, Lilly gives in to its powers and is immediately cursed. She falls into a coma of sorts, and ages rapidly. After a visit from the wizard Merlin, whom no one seems to trust, it becomes apparent that it’s up to Mila and her best friend Rustin to save Lilly, and the only place they can do that is through the portal, into medieval Logres.

Like I said, it’s a slightly ridiculous plot, but the fact that I enjoyed it so much is a testament to Hosie’s writing. She definitely has a way of sucking you in, and her descriptive prose was spot on.

[Queen Guinevere] claps her hands twice and two young girls appear out of nowhere. It’s like they bled out of the stone walls”

For me, The Ring of Morgana felt like a unique take on Arthurian mythology – it felt fresh and exciting, and has left me with lots of unanswered questions, urging me to read on.

I’m intrigued as to why Arthur, and most of Logres are so wary of, and hostile towards Merlin when it seems like he’s the best person to help Lilly. What did he do? I really want to know how Arthur ended up with Morgana too, and if she’s truly good now, like we are expected to believe (I don’t believe it for a second btw).

And finally, I have to mention Mila – loved her! She’s an interesting protagonist who brings heart and humour into everything she does. I can’t wait to find out how she develops in this new, old world she finds herself in.

It doesn’t matter what time you live in, people will always bitch and gossip.”

-Mila Roth

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

back
Title: Back to Blackbrick
Author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 272 pages
Publication Details: February 7th 2013 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope! I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora.

Goodreads
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Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in…

Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

 Review

I really enjoyed Sarah’s second YA novel, The Apple Tart of Hope which I got through Netgalley, so I was eager to go back to her first offering, Back to Blackbrick.

Like The Apple Tart of Hope, Back to Blackbrick is a quirky read told in a unique voice. It seems to me that both of Sarah’s stories are full of juxtapositions; they are set in the real world yet have fantasy elements; they are humorous and light-hearted, yet also deal with serious subject matter.

I love that about Sarah’s writing. It feels real but magical at the same time.

Back to Blackbrick is narrated by Cosmo. He hates his name, the fact that his brother died in such a stupid manner (he fell out of a window), his mother for getting on a plane and never coming back, the school kids who call him Loser Boy, and that his granddad’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse by the day.

But Cosmo is a spirited boy. He doesn’t despair too much over these things and he definitely doesn’t dwell on them. Instead, he throws himself into helping his granddad to remember things.

When his granddad gives him a mysterious key, along with the name Blackbrick, and asks him to promise to go there, Cosmo sets off on his own adventure. Beyond his imagination, Cosmo opens the gates to Blackbrick and finds himself face-to-face with his granddad, only he’s 50 years younger….

Can Cosmo use this time lapse to his advantage? He wants to teach his granddad good mind practices, and stop his brother from falling out of the window, but that might not be so simple as it’s easy to get swept away with life at Blackbrick.

I thought this book was beautifully told, funny, and well, just cute. I can’t think of any better way to describe it than that. It was exciting in parts, sad in others, but Cosmo’s frank way of looking at the world really shone through and made the story what it is: Unique.

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick and The Apple Tart of Hope are available in paperback from Waterstones.