Recommended reads: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Fans have waited eagerly for Holly Black’s return to the realms of Faerie and the fae and The Cruel Prince doesn’t disappoint. Holly Black rightfully retains her crown as the Faerie queen in this new beginning to a trilogy that presents a faerieland that is just as bloodthirsty and cruel as we remember.

Jude is a girl who was stolen away to faerie as a child and raised by her parent’s murderer. She was raised in Faerie, with her twin sister Taryn, a cruel and intolerant place for a human. But her redcap, parent murdering, father, Madoc, has raised them in his home, as members of the faerie court.

Jude is a character caught between two worlds, not Fae enough to be faerie but not human enough to want to escape to the human world with her Fae sister Vivi. But not everyone in Elfhame is accepting of Jude, in fact, some would much rather see her dead.

Among Jude’s enemies is Cardan, prince of Elfhame and all around mean guy. And willing to make Jude’s life hell whenever he has the opportunity. And he has the opportunity quite a lot.  Cardan is a wonderfully horrid boy, who seems to literally define  the phrase ‘love to hate’.

Jude has to battle court intrigue, murderous royals, and use her skills as a human to her advantage in the Fae court. A Fae court that frequently is becoming less safe for a human…

Holly Black has spent years and frequent books developing her bloodthirsty, special world of Faerie. The Cruel Prince has cameo’s from characters that fans of her books will recognise.

Holly Black takes us into new territory with the kingdom of Elfhame, a different court to the ones that have been already and welcomes us inside of it far more than any of the previous ones. We are immersed, like Jude, into the world of Faerie. Holly Black’s fae are crueller and more untrustworthy than ever before – and  it’s delicious.

The cruelty and pain of Faerie is rich and decadent. Holly Black has filled this world full of anger and betrayal. and language that is rich and lyrical.

It’s a world that feels like you were meant to turn around at the first step and run away home to safety. But instead you take a step closer, and further into the quagmire and find yourself in the most horrible, trouble, imaginable.

But it’s the kind of trouble you can’t wait to find your way out of. We are barely able to breathe waiting for the next despicable installment.

Recommended Reads: Frances Hardinge, Seanan Maguire, Joanne M Harris

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A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Following on from the success of The Lie Tree, A Skinful of Shadows is Frances Hardinge’s next big hit. A Skinful of Shadows is a dark YA historical fantasy set in the early part of the English Civil War. Makepeace is an illegitimate daughter of the aristocratic Fellmotte family, and because of this, she shares their unique gift: she is able to be possessed by ghosts. But Makepeace is reluctant to accept her appointed destiny as vessel for a coterie of her ancestors, so she escapes. As she flees the pursuing Fellmottes across war-torn England, she accumulates a motley crew of her own allies, including outcasts, misfits, criminals, and one extremely angry dead bear. You won’t be sorry you checked this one out.

Beaneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan Maguire

If you like your outcasts confident and your heroines unique then you can’t go wrong with Seanan Maguire’s beautiful trio of novellas about  Eleanor’s West’s Home for Wayward Children. Beginning with Every Heart a Doorway and continuing on to Down Among the Sticks and Bones, it continues with Beneath the Sugar Sky which is released in January 2018. Maguire combines beautiful, lyrical writing with fantastic stories and settings. Beneath the Sugar Sky follows Rini, a girl who lands with a  literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, and discovers that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived.  If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. The whole series is a brilliant read and the newest installment will really brighten up your weekends.

A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris

Modern magical realist Joanne M Harris takes another foray into fantasy with A Pocketful of Crows. Following the months of the year, A Pocketful of Crows draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl who grows up around the wild and nature. It isn’t until she falls in love that she takes her first steps into the world of man but she isn’t certain that she fits in there either. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape. Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a gorgeous modern fairytale.

Best books of 2017 part one


Turtles all the way down by John Green

You’d have to be living under a large and leafy rock not to know that John Green (of Fault in our Stars and Vlogbrothers fame) has released a new book this October. Turtles all the Way Down is the newest volume about an unusual girl trying to find her way in a strange world. The novel follows 16 year old Aza who has embarked on a quest to solve the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett – who could say no to a $100,000 reward? Well, Aza possibly could, but her best fearless friend Daisy wants to investigate, and Aza can’t think of many more reasons to say no. Throughout this adventure, Aza struggles with mental illness, and with her friends expectations of her. Turtles All the Way Down heroes female friendship and is the off-kilter narrative we have come to expect from John Green. If you were a Nancy Drew girl and loved the Secret Seven then this strange little mystery will brighten your day.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is one of my top three authors and His Dark Materials has been one of my all-time favourite books since I was twelve. I waited years and years and eventually gave up on ever hearing anything about The Book of Dust (the sequel to the series). That was until February of this year, when Pullman announced that the first ‘equal’ to the acclaimed  fantasy series would be released in October. I’ve been hyperventilating ever since. La Belle Sauvage follows eleven year old Malcolm Polstead and is set in the same universe as Lyra Belaqua’s. In fact, baby Lyra is just a few miles away from Malcolm, and he decides that he wants to meet this very special girl. La Belle Sauvage is the first in a trilogy of books planned to accompany His Dark Materials. The first is set ten years before and the second and third will be set ten years after. Fans (including myself) are hopeful that Lyra and Will will get to somehow meet once more in the sequels but knowing Pullman, we’re sure to get a surprise.

All the Crooked Saints

Maggie Stiefvater is a powerhouse of YA fantasy. Her Raven Boys series is a gorgeous mix of magic, mysteries, fortunes and teenagers. This new series, All the Crooked Saints features the talents of the Soria family who are no strangers to miracles. In every generation of the Soria family each member have the power to perform unusual miracles. At its heart are three cousins, Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin, all of whom are looking for miracles of their own. But ‘be careful what you wish for’ is a cliché for a reason. There has been some controversy surrounding Stiefvater’s new book, questions about the way that it portrays Mexican and Latinx culture. However Stiefvater published a frank and honest essay concerning her feelings about the book and responding to the criticism. I’m going to give Stiefvater the benefit of the doubt and look forward to seeing for myself how she develops this new world.

Runaways by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka

Our favourite YA romance author, Rainbow Rowell has turned her very talented hand to re-launching Marvel’s teen superhero title, Runaways. According to Rowell, Runaways is her favourite comic and she was blown away that she got to revive the series. Her six-comic arc began in September and continues this month. It follows a team of five teenagers who are the children of supervillains and decided to – you guessed it – run away. They also acquire a friendly dinosaur sidekick, as you do. The series ended over ten years ago and Rowell has brought it back – with a few changes and a new beginning for the characters. Quite frankly, we would read Rowell’s to-do lists, so we can’t wait for this.

 

 

 

 

Bell, book and candle – interview with Moïra Fowley Doyle

Magic, mysticism and mystery are at the core of Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s novels, The Accident Season and this year’s The Spellbook of the Lost and Found. Set in rural Ireland they take normal girls and unravel the secrets of their past and defeat the demons of their present with spells, enchantment and dreams. We chatted to Moira about the inspiration behind her books and weaving magic into modern Ireland.

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Did you always want to write novels?

Always. When I was a child I wanted to be a ballet dancer so I took four two-hour ballet classes a week for ten years – and I wrote constantly: stories and poems and every day in my diary. When I was a teenager I wanted to be an artist so I drew and painted and sketched – and I wrote constantly: poetry and short novels and every day in my diary. When I was in university I realised that my only constant was my real passion, so I started calling myself a writer.

Where did you develop an interest in magical realism?

When I was a teenager I discovered the Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block.They’re a series of five cult YA books written in the 80s and I’d never read anything like them. They’re glitzy and grim and sparkly and serious, they’re lyrical and strange and poetic.

There’s this sense that threads through them that even the darkest moments can be beautiful, that reality and fantasy are blurred, that everybody has a story to tell.

I took this like an arrow to the heart because I’d always had the same sense myself, but couldn’t quite put it into words.

Once I realised that this interlacing of truth and fiction had a genre and a name I started reading all the magic realism I could find.

It’s the closest type of fiction that I feel reflects real life.

“The real and the maybe-not-so-real have always been a bit blurry for me, and that means that when things are good they’re dreamy and magical, and when they aren’t they’re eerie and haunting.”

What books and authors have influenced your writing style?

Francesca Lia Block, for starters, but also non-YA like Kate Atkinson and Jeanette Winterson on the adult fiction side, and David Almond and Philip Pullman on the children’s fiction side. These are the authors I read the most as a teenager, which was when my writing style developed, and are also some of the authors I read the most today.

Both The Accident Season and The Spellbook of the Lost and Found are dreamy, haunting stories, do you have to get in a particular mindset for that style of writing?

To be honest, that mindset is kind of my default. I’ve never been someone who is particularly anchored in the real world. The real and the maybe-not-so-real have always been a bit blurry for me, and that means that when things are good they’re dreamy and magical, and when they aren’t they’re eerie and haunting. I lived my entire adolescence like this, so I suppose it made sense to me to write about teenagers who lived the same way.

In The Spellbook of the Lost and Found you mix religious traditions, superstitions and wiccan ritual, did you do a lot of research to bring your story to life?

I read a lot about folk magic and patron saints, but these are things I’m very interested in anyway, so I had a good bit of that research done already. I learnt a lot of the superstitions and religious traditions just by having been brought up atheist in Ireland. There’s this fascinating and beautiful almost-paganism to Irish Catholicism when you look at it from the outside: the patron saints, the holy wells, how people bury Child of Prague statues before weddings and keep St Christopher medals in their babies’ prams. I also read a lot about trees. Native Irish trees and the superstitions and legends and folk magic associated with each. Each of the characters’ names were carefully chosen so that their personalities – and relationships with each other – aligned with the meanings of the trees they’re named after. I think I read more about trees than I did any other research.

Your books have such a sense of place – did the area that you grew up in have a big influence on that? 

Not the place I grew up in, so much: I grew up in Clontarf, which is a seaside suburb on the north side of Dublin, and it’s very lovely, but not at all like where I set my first two books.

But a couple of years before I wrote The Accident Season my parents bought a house in County Mayo, beside a forest, on the shores of a lake.

It’s in the middle of nowhere, a fifteen minute drive from the nearest small town which has a beautiful river running through the middle of it and not a few ghost estates sitting empty and overgrown. B

oth The Accident Season and Spellbook are set in fictional small towns that are heavily based on that real town.

“I don’t tend to write people I know in real life into my books, but I put a lot of the feel of my family – the closeness, the teasing, the minor chaos, the dad jokes – into Olive’s family in Spellbook”

The characters in both of your novels are loyal and have strong connections of family and friendship – is that drawn from your own life?

I’m very lucky because I have a very close-knit, loving family and a group of friends I’ve had since I was a teenager. Some I met when I started secondary school, the others when I started university, and we’ve been through a lot together and grown up together and stayed strong and a lot of us were each other’s bridesmaids and now our children play together.

I don’t tend to write people I know in real life into my books, but I put a lot of the feel of my family – the closeness, the teasing, the minor chaos, the dad jokes – into Olive’s family in Spellbook.

That’s probably why the chapters we spend in Olive’s house are some of my favourites in the whole book.

Do you have a favourite of any of your characters?

I feel a great kinship with Bea in The Accident Season – she is probably the closest to teenage-me that any of my characters have turned out so far.

But I also love Rose in Spellbook – I think it would be very difficult not to fall in love with somebody like Rose in real life.

The romances and emotions in both of your books are incredibly intense and vibrant – do you enjoy writing that side of your characters or do you find it challenging?

I love the emotions!

Emotions and relationships and family dynamics are the things I prefer to write – in fact, they’re always the things I write first.

My first drafts are a mess of dreaminess and creepiness and characters having emotions and relationships and the rest of what makes a story – the plot, the pacing, having at least half of the book make some semblance of sense – happens in the edits.

“Write the kind of book you want to read but can’t quite find, the one that ticks all your boxes, the one that you’d buy instantly if you saw it on the shelves.”

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I know this is kind of a cliché, but write what you love. Fall in love with what you write.

Write the kind of book you want to read but can’t quite find, the one that ticks all your boxes, the one that you’d buy instantly if you saw it on the shelves. If you don’t love your book fiercely, you’re less likely to finish it.

And if you love it that much, chances are very high that other people will too.

Do you have plans for your next novel? 

I’m currently about halfway through the first draft of my next novel, so because it’s at such an early stage I can’t talk much about it. I like that it’s kind of a secret as I build it, though – this tangle of family history and stormy seas – that will one day soon become a book.

The Accident Season and The Spellbook of the Lost and Found are published by Penguin and available from all good bookshops.