This is an exciting and action packed series of books about a young girl called Emily Knight. The title that we are
celebrating is actually the third book, of what I think is going to be a quartet; at least that is the impression I get from the end of the book. I would however suggest that starting with the first title and working your way through is probably a very sensible option. The complex plot and relationships mean that you need to understand the background and it is book one that gives you this information.
The series is set in a modern world; but it is one made up of ‘Mundanes’, who are people like us and the ‘Warriors’ who appear to have an assortment of special powers and act as protectors to the ordinary population. Emily is the daughter of the most famous warrior, Thomas Knight, who had defeated the renegade warrior called Neci in a past battle. She does not want to be the centre of attention and feels the pressure on her to be like her father and elder brother, Lox, both of whom have cult star status; having been star players in the seriously tough game called Dojo. In books one and two Emily’s brother is missing and her father is on a hunt to try and find him, leaving Emily at home with foster parents and friends. By the start of book three the family have been reunited, but there are still many tensions and there is a move towards a war as Neci becomes more powerful and builds an army of followers.
This is definitely a series for those who love the idea of friendship groups involved in battling evil. There are real echoes of other popular series from the past, but as always it is what the author does with the basic outline that is important. A Bello has produced something that although familiar in many ways has its own distinct story and characters. Although we know that Neci is cast as the villain of the piece, I find myself wanting to know more about her back story. We are told how she discovers her powers and develops her hatred of the warriors, but I feel there is more to the story and I hope that we will learn more about her motivation in the final story. Emily herself has all the anxieties and uncertainties of someone in their teens. She feels the burden of leadership that is being placed on her and does not think that she can live up to the expectations. She is also going through the normal ups and downs of adolescence and dealing with her attraction to two of the male students at her school. With the reappearance of her father and brother she has to learn to cope with their personalities and to make them understand that she is an individual in hr own right.
It is good to see a series where there is a strong female central character and particularly one who is a person of colour. There has been a lot of emphasis on diversity in literature this year, but this author has been writing such stories for several years and we can see from her author profile she is someone who is heavily involved in broadening the range of people and stories in children’s publishing. I am delighted to have had the opportunity of reading these books and I look forward to the next title, when hopefully we will see the finale of this exciting series
A. Bello is the award-winning author of the bestselling fantasy
series Emily Knight I am. . . and Emily Knight I am. . .
Awakened, which was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie
Medal 2019, Winner of London’s Big Read 2019, finalist for
A. Bello first began writing the Emily Knight saga at aged
12 with the intention of filling the gaping hole in children’s
fiction for an inspirational, strong, black female, young
A. Bello won the London Book Fair’s Trailblazer Award
2018. She is the founder of The Lil’ Author School, co-founder
of The Author School, Hashtag Press, Hashtag BLAK, The
Diverse Book Awards and ink!
Find out more at www.a-bello.com
Follow A. Bello on Twitter: @ABelloWrites
Instagram: @abiolabello @emilyknightiam
This wonderful story is set in the early part of the 19th century, 1830 to be precise; at a time when Britain was at the centre of an ever growing empire. This story highlights the many changes that society was going through; moving away from the excesses of the Georgian period and into a time of exploration, science and a greater understanding of the natural world.
It is the really heart wrenching story of a young girl coming to terms with a new country, the loss of parents and caring for the animals in her charge. Sahira Clive, is the daughter of an English father and India mother, both of whom died on the journey from India, so that it is left to Sahira to deliver two tigers to the Tower of London menagerie. However as a twelve year old girl in a foreign land she finds herself at the mercy of the adults around her and is sent to an orphanage in the East End, having been told that her father’s wealthy family do not wish to acknowledge her. Sahira finds her life still entwined with the two tigers, Rama and Sita, as they have problems settling into their new quarters. However she finds that as an outsider she is subject to bullying and verbal abuse as a minimum. Whilst helping out at the menagerie she comes into contact with young Bobby Peel, the son of the Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel and through him she discovers a young cousin and the rest of her family.
The author has produced a wonderful story that combines brilliant story telling, strong characters and a real sense of history. Not only are the historical facts accurate but they give us a true sense of the deep poverty that existed in the country at this time, alongside immense wealth, as well as the way the poor were treated as being almost less that human. This is a really multi-layered story in which we see themes around racism, class, women’s rights (or rather the lack of), animal welfare and law and order all playing a part. Not only is this a tremendous adventure story but it has a wonderfully strong central character in Sahira; she is determined to do her best for the animals in her charge and increase the understanding of how we should look after the animals around us. She is also a person who has to fight against various forms of prejudice and make people accept her for the amazing character that she is.
Julia Golding has been writing books for young people for the last 15 plus years and I have been enjoying them since the beginning. She is best known for two of her series; firstly there is the Companions series which mixes Greek mythology with magic in the modern world, then we have the ‘Cat Royal’ series which follow the adventures of a young girl in 18th century London and beyond. She has also written for younger teens and I particularly enjoyed the ‘Dragonfly’ series. Julia has led a fascinating life having worked in the Civil Service in the UK and in Poland. She then undertook a PhD in English about the ‘English Romantic Period’ at Oxford before becoming a lobbyist for Oxfam. She now writes full time and I am delighted to say that she still lives in Oxford (my home city) with her family.
I am so excited that this fabulous book is now out in the wild and that it can be read by everyone; something that I would definitely recommend. So without any holdups here is the story.
Kip Bramley thinks that he is just an ordinary boy, with few friends and prone to being bullied at school; mainly because of his habit of doodling what his father calls ‘squirls’ because they are between squiggles and swirls. He lives with his father as his mother is in a home, due to an accident where she was hit by lightning and his sister disappeared. Then one day Kit is presented with an puzzling invitation, by a drone of all things and he finds himself at a school like no other. Quicksmiths College of Strange Energy is like nothing that Kit has ever seen. The teachers bear no resemblance to those in his previous school and are full of magic, quirkiness and an often odd sense of humour; the school itself is a mix of science and magic, which really appeals to our hero. Kit quickly makes friends with his roommate Albert and their mentors Leela and Timmi. Things start to get very interesting when the school is read a 400 year old letter from the founder of the school, Eartha Quicksmith. She has left a challenge for the whole school to find and solve 10 riddles in 10 days; otherwise the world could face disaster. Of course Kit and his friends are determined to win the challenge, in the hope that it will help him find a cure for his mother, but they find themselves facing an unknown enemy who is determined to beat everyone to the prize; Eartha Quicksmith’s ‘Ark of Ideas’ and maybe even the legendary ‘Aeon Light’.
Flying Squirrel, by Creazilla
I particularly love some of the additional characters that we find acting as support in this story but the star has to be Pinky, Kit’s very laid back pet, who turns out to be a flying squirrel. We also have the Mowl, a fascinating little creature, with a mix of feathers and fur which had been created in a freak electromagnetic accident by Leela. These animal friends act as fantastic support for the adventures that the four children find themselves caught up in and bring an element of humour to the proceedings.
This story is an absolutely roller coaster of a ride, not least because of the skimmis, which appear to be like the hover-boards from ‘Back to the Future 2’ and also the existence of wormholes that act as short cuts enable movement between places, but almost instantly. The four friends are very different but they form a close team as they search through the clues and try and discover who their unknown competitor is. The school setting has definite echoes of some of our favourite children’s adventures; from Hogwarts to Deepdean but it brings a twist that is all its own. This is absolutely a story for those who love their science mixed with a healthy dose of magic. I am really looking forward to the next adventure for this group of young heroes, it is bound to be amazing. Over all this story is a total delight.
Loris Owen live in Kent but was born in Bolton and also spent time living in Zimbabwe. She first started writing ideas for children’s stories in 2015 and this is the first of her stories to be published. Firefly Press are a brilliant small press in South Wales and have developed a real reputation for producing some fabulous books by people such as Eloise Williams, Horatio Clare, Shoo Rayner and Catherine Fisher. I have been a fan of theirs for several years and I am delighted to see them go from strength to strength. Thank you so much for the review copy and giving me the chance to share my enthusiasm for this fantastic story.
I first met up with Emily, the very characterful heroine of this series, in the story of The Midnight Hour. This introduced Emily, and us, to a world that she had not known existed, but which her parents were heavily involved in. Yes, we have parents who have been keeping secrets (quite big ones as well) from their daughter; obviously it was intended to keep her out of harm’s way, but things didn’t quite work out. Anyway Emily managed to save the Midnight Hour from certain destruction, and discovered that she was part Pooka (a shapeshifter from Celtic mythology). Life should have gone back to normal, but for Emily that does not appear to be an option.
In the Midnight Howl we are taken back to this magical version of London, that has been frozen in time since 1859. Emily is allowed to go there with her father (a postman in this magical realm) in order to practice her shape changing abilities, but she is banned from contacting any members of her mother’s family, because her mother was banished from the clan years ago. Unfortunately Emily discovers that things are not well and that magic is creeping out of the Hour, because someone is bringing in goods from the real world. The adventure that follows sees Emily re-united with her friend Officer-in-training Tarkus as well as the magical force called the Library (representing Literature) as they try and prevent the total destruction of the Midnight Hour and all of its inhabitants.
What an absolutely brilliant follow-up to a really exciting story. Emily is one of those characters that you really hope will succeed, but at the same time she makes you want to bang your head against a wall. She really wants to do what her parents tell her, but somehow the world and circumstances get in the way. I think a fair description of Emily would be to say that she is feisty, very quirky and her temper has something of a short fuse. Perhaps my favourite character is her pet hedgehog called Hoggins, who doesn’t speak (naturally) but does have a way of commenting on the action around him. If you go to Laura Trinder’s website you will find some great downloads, including creating your own Hoggins https://www.lauratrinder.co.uk/downloads
This team have produced a wonderfully subversive and funny adventure that provides just enough darkness to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I am really looking forward to some further escapades with this delightful cast of characters.
This totally glorious picture book brings the story of bear and the piano full circle. After being a tremendous success pianist for several years, Hector Bear finds that he is gradually playing to smaller audiences and he is no longer as popular as at the beginning. Eventually he decides to retire and returns to the forest, where he settles down and eventually is blessed by the birth of Little Bear. She is a lively and inquisitive cub and one day she comes across something she has never seen before; it is Hector’s piano and he ends up telling her the story of his early life. Little Bear sees how unhappy he is and decides to write to Hugo (Bear’s old companion) and invite him to the forest. What happens next will have you almost in tears, with a renewed faith in the essential goodness of people, but also about the ability of music to profoundly change people’s lives.
The illustrations for this story are totally stunning and provide so much for us to take in. I particularly love the scene when Hector decides to give up his music. The way he leaves the stage is full of sorrow and pain and when we look into the auditorium and see the audience it is very emotional; some people are talking to each other and one person is sound asleep. As always David Litchfield has produced the most amazing settings for the story and the use of colour brings everything vividly to life. There are the very obvious contrasts between the brilliant images full of colour and light which reflect the joy of playing music and the darkness of some of the pages, where Hector is feeling depressed and uncertain about his music. This is a book that will keep the young reader totally fascinated and absorbed by the depth and complexity of the images that they are exploring.
We were first introduced to Hector in the first of this trilogy,when he discovered his love of the piano and we have followed him through the ups and downs of being a musician. I can’t believe that this was 5 years ago and that it was David Litchfield’s first picture book. It went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for best illustrated book and the rest, as they say, is history; he has produced several wonderful titles apart from those about the Bear, but this set are still my favourites. Whilst the text is quite limited, it makes all the words count and the images are truly magical.
Thank you to Frances Lincoln Books and Netgalley for giving me access to this title; it has been a total delight.