Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Lewis chessmen


As a girl, one of my favourite things to do was to visit the British Museum. I loved the slightly creepy horror of the Egypt room (too many illicit viewings of horror films!) but my heart has always belonged to small things- Japanese netsuke, for example or the Lewis chessmen. Museums were far less interactive and child friendly in the 70s, but the Lewis chessmen were perfect- at child eye height, you could see things that adults couldn't- the pompous expression on the Bishop's face, the tired droop of the Knight; the Queen with her hand to her face. They're wonderful objects. I could almost feel their smooth weight in the palm of my hand.

So I was delighted when two books recently featured the chessmen. The wonderful Francesca Simon of Horrid Henry fame's Sleeping Army is the story of Freya, living in an alternate version of Britain, where Christianity is a minor cult, and Viking beliefs are the mainstream religion.


Freya is caught between her warring, divorced parents: her mother is a priestess of the Viking religion, and her father, who has lost his job, is a security guard at the British Museum. Owing to a mix up, one night he has to take Freya to the museum with him, where, bored, she blows Heimdall's horn, and brings the statues to life. A brother and sister, Alfi and Roskva, Snot the Berserker and Sleipnir the eight legged horse. Together they end up in Asgard, only to find it horribly altered: the gods are dying, and Freya must go on a journey to save them. If she fails, she will be turned into a chess piece herself. On the way they meet giants, Loki the trickster god and travels to the Underworld. Freya is a believable protagonist: hardly heroic at times, she is definitely not the outdoor type, but grows into her role as the leader of a quest. I really enjoyed this, and recommend it to children 8+.


All the Doctor wanted was a game of chess. But he arrives on an island at the top of Scotland just at the wrong time: a mysterious fire that burns on top of the water is coming closer to the island, and a ship full of Vikings is transporting a princess to an unwilling marriage with a very unattractive King, and an island people with no way of defending themselves from either. And to top it all, the salt water seems to be playing havoc with the TARDIS.

This is a great adventure. If you know Jenny Colgan's romance novels, you'll know that she's a very funny writer with a great talent for deft characterisation, and she captures the whimsical and capricious nature of the Eleventh Doctor, as well as his love affair with humanity. Here he is without Amy and Rory, and rather lonely- and in keeping with the television series, has an affinity with a child. The Princess and Viking subplot is great too, and balances nicely with the Doctor's lone state. Although this is not marketed for children, I think a confident Who fan of 11+ would love this book.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Review: Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriors

Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series is one of the best recent children's series, so I was very much looking forward to reading this one, based in bronze-age Greece, pre-classical period. And I wasn't disappointed. Her ability to conjure up the cold and dangers of ancient Scandinavia translates to Greece, with the dangers from sea, sun and volcanoes to her protagonists Hylas and Pirra.

Hylas is an Outsider in Lyconia- he and his sister Issi are blonde haired, and therefore heard goats in return for limited protection of the villagers. Then one day black armoured warriors known as Crows arrive, attacking the goatherds, killing one, and Issi vanishes. Hylas runs away, seeking help from the chieftain's son, Telemon. 

On his journey to find Issi, Hylas makes an unexpected friend in Pirra, a priestess's daughter, and together they must prevent the Crows from regaining a precious artefact, despite betrayal. A wonderfully exciting read for confident readers of 9+.

This post previously appeared on


Monday, 4 March 2013

Review: Emily Knight I Am by A. Bello


Thirteen year old Emily Knight is the daughter of a famous warrior, Thomas Knight, in an alternate version of Britain where warriors have magical powers and fight against the forces of the evil Neci. At the beginning of the book, Emily's rebellious older brother, Lox, is struggling with the pressure to live up to his famous father and ambivalent about Thomas's motivation in encouraging him to become a warrior too. Lox decides to run away, and is met by a mysterious figure.

With her mother dead, and Thomas off hunting for Lox, Emily is also rebelling, getting into trouble for shop lifting, while living with a foster family. Then her family decide to send her off to warrior school, where she can better learn to control her powers and channel them for the good. However, a mysterious figure is also hanging around the school. Who is the mysterious figure? Can Emily learn to control her powers? And can she stop herself from fighting mean girl Tanya?

This is a fun read for children 9+ from a very young author- A. Bello is only 24, and she wrote the original version of this book when she was only 12! If the book is reminiscent of Harry Potter- a magical school with teleporting teachers, a magical game that is a cross between tag wrestling and dodgeball with fire, an evil force wanting to destroy the school- then it is, but then Harry Potter is reminiscent of many other classic children's books. It's great to read a fantasy novel with multicultural characters, and I'm glad to see that A. Bello is writing a sequel. However, I did find some typographical errors and some inconsistencies, and I would hope that good editing would eliminate these in future editions. 

I am grateful to the author for sending me a review copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.