MG Takes on Thursday – Songs of Magic

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

I’m cheating again this week (is there even a week when I don’t?!) and I’ve picked two books:

A Darkness of Dragons and A Vanishing of Griffins, Books one and two in the Songs of Magic trilogy by SA Patrick. Cover art by George Ermos. Published by Usborne.

I had A Darkness of Dragons waiting for an embarrassing amount of time. The only good thing about this is the fact that it meant I could go straight onto A Vanishing of Griffins when I finished it. (Only now I’m left desperate for book three with at least a year to wait!)

I love (almost) any book which draws on fairy or folk tales, so I was really drawn to the way this used the story of the Pied Piper as its base. And it works so well – all at once we have a brilliant take on a classic tale; a fantastically dark, powerful and mysterious villain; and a unique and believable magic system.

Our main characters – Patch, Wren and Barver – make an interesting and loveable central trio who find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly thrown together, but quickly develop strong bonds and an unshakeable loyalty.

Together, they set out to find and stop the villainous Piper, but each with their own journey to make too. The way in which their individual stories unfold and develop is woven into the main plot expertly, and with so many twists and unexpected turns, just when you think they’ve reached their goal, another obstacle appears, another mission is required or another chain of events set in motion.

No quest would be complete without a whole host of interesting characters met along the way, and that is certainly the case here – from noble to untrustworthy to those you can’t quite place; from sorcerers to witches to pipers in hiding and cut-throat pirates; from respectful and respectable elders to power-hungry leaders to, of course, a seemingly unstoppable enemy.

This is a fantastic adventure series, with breathtaking journeys through some well-imagined and depicted places (I am especially intrigued about where our story will pick up in book three!) Full of magic, friendship and excitement – highly recommended!

My favourite quote from page 11 (of A Darkness of Dragons) :

He thought for a moment, but all that came was that terrible, dark wall through the forest, one step after another with no end. His eyes widened.” I don’t even remember my own name!”

These books in three words:

Magic. Quest. Adventure.

#MGTakesOnThursday – The Edge of the Ocean

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Strangeworlds Travel Agency: The Edge of the Ocean by L. D. Lapinski, cover art by Natalie Smillie, published by Hachette Children’s

The first Strangeworlds book was magnificent and sucked me right in (you can read my review here) so I was very excited to read book two!

If you’ve not read book one, start there! If you have you surely won’t need me to convince you to grab book two, but just in case you need a nudge…

I admit, it did take a couple of chapters to reorient myself, but once I did, I devoured this in just a couple of sittings; I could not put it down.

Flick and Jonathan are back and as brilliant a pairing as ever! The addition of Jonathan’s cousin Avery adds another dimension and plenty of interest, and their friendship continues to go from strength to strength in the most hilarious, awkward and heartfelt ways.

Jonathan is one of my favourite characters, not just in this series but in children’s fiction and to see him sailing the seas, swashbuckling and soaked to the skin raised many a smile.

He’s written with such a fabulous dry wit and I have to say that it’s a testament to LD Lapinski’s writing that in the midst of a rollicking, riotous pirate adventure one of my favourite scenes was Jonathan in the veg aisle at Tesco.

On a more serious note, there’s developments from the first book that will have a lump in your throat as often as a laugh and the balance struck is perfect.

Flick for her part has just managed to escape her lifelong grounding and it’s a good thing too, as Strangeworlds are summoned to The Break – a flat, watery world which is vanishing fast.

And so begins a fast-paced, action-packed piratical adventure like no other!

Faced with a lost suitcase, warring pirate crews and mysterious mer-folk they know nothing about, the Strangeworlds crew set about trying to save the inhabitants of The Break (whilst still being home in time for tea).

I said in my review of the first book that the world-building and imagination were top notch and that remains the case here too. To somehow make the fantastic so believable and tangible is no mean feat.

The characters Flick, Jonathan and Avery meet are brilliant too – the pirates tough, robust and wily; the merfolk vividly imagined and depicted.

Packed with excitement, twists, turns and magic (not forgetting the mortal danger, double-crossing and world-hopping), this is a high seas adventure like no other! Absolutely brilliant – I need book three immediately!

My favourite quote from page 211 (sorry Mary, I’m cheating):

“‘Are there any rules for talking to mer-folk?’ Avery asked.

This book in three words:

Pirates. Magic. Excitement.

Have you read the Strangeworlds books? Will you be picking this one up?

The Swallows’ Flight

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review, but will be buying the finished copy too! All views and opinions are my own.

The Swallows Flight by Hilary McKay, cover art by Dawn Cooper, published by Macmillan

Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War shot into my favourite books ever when I read it back in 2018, so I was incredibly excited to hear there’d be a follow up, and even more thrilled to be able to read an advance copy on netgalley.

Let me tell you now – it has more than earned a place alongside Skylarks in my all time faves, being every bit as wonderful, and has cemented my opinion of Hilary McKay as one of my most highly-rated writers for children today.

So much of my feelings about Swallows echo those I had about Skylarks, with much of what I wrote there standing true for this book also.

And, somewhat inevitably, there will be many comparisons and parallels drawn between the two as I write this review as I loved the way the books link and follow on from each other.

Written as a companion novel to Skylarks, The Swallows’ Flight could easily be read without having read the former. However, I’d urge anyone planning to read Swallows to first read Skylarks; not only because it’s an absolutely outstanding book, but also because it really does add to Swallows to have read it.

It’s in the little references to past events, in the clever parallels and symbolism in the writing and, of course, in the characters.

We see several familiar characters return (later in life) alongside their families and I absolutely loved being able to rejoin some of the characters who I felt I’d got to know so well and who brought me so much joy to read in Skylarks.

I don’t know how much of a spoiler it is to say who reappears, so I’ll keep my lips tightly sealed other than to say that Grandfather in particular was the absolute star of the show here for me. His dry wit, stubbornness and, yes, his penchant for a drink allow for some wonderful comic moments (if these books ever became films and he wasn’t played by Richard E Grant it’d be an outrage).

But he also made for a very thought-provoking character, as I reflected on Skylarks as I read. And interestingly, it was him that helped other characters develop in some ways too, notably Kate, one of the new faces in the family and another of my favourite characters.

There’s a feel of I Capture the Castle’s Cassandra as she quietly notes down all her family and friends’ comings and goings, seemingly from the sidelines, as she is repeatedly overlooked and underestimated. But she’s stronger than she seems and I loved seeing her blossom in this.

I also loved her younger brother Charlie and new friend Ruby Amaryllis (and the story behind her birth and naming which was pitch-perfect for what we know of her mum already and for what we see of Ruby herself as she grows).

In fact it’s safe to say that all of the characters are an absolute joy to read; Hilary McKay is a writer who understands family dynamics and can bring her characters to life like no other. As in Skylarks, it is their depth and credibility their relationships and growth and our investment in them that really makes the book.

With Skylarks set around the First World War, Swallows takes us to a Europe on the brink of war once more, as World War Two approaches.

And this leads us to two more new characters I loved – Hans and Erik. They are an absolutely adorable double act, best friends with grand plans to run the zoo and nearby coffee stall. They are a delight to read – warm and loving and with that true spirit of carefree youth – and they complement the rest of the cast of characters superbly.

And, of course, they’re German.

I love the way that Swallows not only uses the multiple perspectives Skylarks does, but also the way it switches between Hans and Erik in Berlin and the families in England.

It created such tension and really added something to the way we see the war, encouraging the reader to consider it from all angles and helped us to learn more about its effects on ‘both sides’, with everyone just ‘doing what they can’.

As with Skylarks, this at no point shies away from the uncertainties and tragedies of war, nor its staggering, inconceivable scenes and events (Dunkirk for example), but they are always written about with such incredible deftness and sensitivity; its almost understated in its approach and hits so much harder because of it.

Quietly powerful, perceptive, funny and full of heart, this is a book to savour and to treasure.

As soon as its out (27th May – get it ordered!) it will be joining Skylarks on my shelf as a book that I will turn to for comfort, for escape…and for a chance to spend time once more with characters who now feel like old friends.

#MGTakesOnThursday – A Sprinkle of Sorcery

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison, cover art by Melissa Castrillon, interior art by Michelle Harrison, published by Simon and Schuster

This is the second book about the Widdershins sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – and it’s a series I can’t recommend highly enough.

You can read my review of book one, A Pinch of Magic, here and their most recent adventure, A Tangle of Spells, here.

The sisters make for perfect protagonists – each markedly different to each other, squabbling in a supremely sisterly way, but all fiercely loyal and protective of each other.

Which is lucky, because when Charlie is kidnapped, it’s up to Betty and Fliss to save her.

This is an adventure story like no other – with more than a pinch of magic (see what I did there?!) this is also part ghost story, part piratical adventure, part quest.

As with all the books in this series, it draws exceptionally well on fairytale, myth and legend and their unwritten rules and tropes. Enchanted objects, an old crone who can help or hinder, wells and wishes come face to face with lost islands, fearsome pirates, maps, old sea tales and treasure hunters.

It is a story with love, loyalty and family writ large against a fast-paced, spooky, magical and hugely exciting adventure.

If you don’t know these books yet, you need to add them to your pile pronto.

My favourite quote from page 11:

“Set upon bleak, drizzly marshes and overlooked by a vast prison, Crowstone wasn’t a place people came to unless they had to.”

This book in three words:

Sisters. Pirates. Magic.

A Tangle of Spells

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. However, I also bought my own finished copy and all views and opinions are my own.

A Tangle of Spells by Michelle Harrison, cover art by Melissa Castrillon, interior art by Michelle Harrison, published by Simon and Schuster

This is the third book following the Widdershins sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – and we join them as they move out of The Poacher’s Pocket (family home and pub) with their father and Granny, and sail across to Pendlewick to set up home there.

However, despite its sunshine-and-light exterior, something’s wrong in Pendlewick.

Between their crooked new home (adorned with salt, silver coins and secrets), The Hungry Tree that no-one dares venture near, sinister-sounding Tick Tick Forest, whispers of witches and a blanket ban on talk of magic (after all, “magic and trouble go hand in hand”) the sisters find themselves once again caught up in a web of witchcraft and danger.

I love this series.

I may have definitely left it way too long between books one and two, but it’s been wonderful to read A Sprinkle of Sorcery and A Tangle of Spells back to back (I only wish I’d gone back to reread A Pinch of Magic first!) If you’ve not yet read the others – start at the very beginning! My mini review of A Pinch of Magic is here.

It’s lovely to see how the three sisters have grown and their relationship strengthened following their previous adventures, while at the same time they haven’t changed a bit and remain the chalk-and-cheese, ever-bickering, doggedly loyal trio they’ve always been.

Each reader will no doubt have their own favourite sister; I think though that pipe-smoking, whiskey-sipping (OK, whiskey-downing) Granny has to be my favourite character throughout this series though. Tough, real and utterly believable, she’s just such a comforting presence in her own no-nonsense way.

I also really like the way the three stories all draw on folktales, superstition and magic but in such very different ways. Each has a different setting, feel and twist to it… But I think this might just be my favourite yet – it is packed to the crooked rafters with witchcraft, charms, superstitions and spells.

Take the eeriest elements of your favourite fairy tales and you have the flavour of this book. It is wonderfully, darkly atmospheric and the imagination and realisation of the world and its magic are second to none; I can’t share my favourite things with you for risk of spoiling them for you, but I will just say that amongst many things here, a particularly cobweb-filled room will linger in my imagination for some time to come.

Magic aside (well, sort of, just momentarily), there is (as there is in all the books) a tangible sense of urgency, danger and tension too that will draw in the fantasy-fearing, adventure-lover and win them over too! The rescue attempt is so exciting and I loved how it took us back to the girls’ first adventure too.

The baddies are brilliant. And that is pretty much all I can say on the matter in order to avoid spoiling the story for you. But they’re malevolent and menacing in all the best ways, with a power and influence that’s terrifying.

This is a truly outstanding magical adventure. Overflowing with fairytale and folklore, hearsay and local legend, witchcraft and wiles, not to mention the fantastic Widdershins family, it had absolutely everything I could have wanted in a book and I completely devoured it.

I am BEYOND THRILLED to hear…theres going to be another Widdershins adventure and it cannot come soon enough!

#MGTakesOnThursday – Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!


To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, published by Simon & Schuster


A heart-warming tale of adjusting to family change, and navigating a parent coming out as gay.

The friendships and family relationships in the book are strong and caring, which is lovely to read. Even the relationship between Archie’s mum and dad feels realistic but hopeful, as they argue and fight and cry and try to figure it all out, but nevertheless try to support each other and mostly, however awkwardly, support Archie.

This is not just a book which celebrates diversity (which it does, with bells on) but normalises it. For those children who find themselves here when they’ve not seen themselves in books before, there’s so much reassurance, positivity and affirmation.

For those to whom this is unfamiliar, it’s a great way to see the lives and experiences of others. To stop them seeming so ‘other’. To see the similarities not the differences.

The reactions of those around Archie – his best friends and babysitter for example – and maybe even more interestingly, his reaction to their (non)reactions, are great in the way they show such acceptance.

I’ll be honest though, I sometimes found the main characters’ actions and perceived knowledge or ‘worldliness’ (or lack of) a bit off and I didn’t love them. But, I didn’t dislike them either, and I did really like all the adult characters, who I found more believable. I suspect the younger readers this is aimed at would get on with them better and it’s definitely just a personal thing, and not something which would stop me from highly recommending the book overall.

The way it balances humour and real life will make it hugely appealing to young readers and its LGBTQ+ themes and the way it explores them openly, sensitively and with such joy and positivity makes it a really important book to get into young readers’ hands.

And I absolutely LOVED the descriptions of pride and the pride family reuniting the following year.

Peapod ‘enjoying’ his first Manchester Pride with our Pride family in 2019!

We go to Manchester pride every year, with an ever expanding pride family made up of so many people we’ve met there year to year, and now our children too. So these descriptions of Pride and how special it is felt so real and brought joy to my heart (it also has me yearning for our next gay Christmas!)


The beginnings of our Pride family at our first Pride together in 2009 and meeting up ahead of our most recent one ten years later (though our numbers have grown since then!)

My favourite quote from page 11 331

I’m cheating a bit this week (sorry Mary!) and I’ve chosen one of my favourite quotes about Pride as these were the parts of the book I really loved best.

Pride is all about family, both the ones you’re given and the ones you make.”


This book in three words:

Pride. Family. Positivity.

Melt

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own

Melt by Ele Fountain, cover art by unknown, published by Pushkin

This isn’t actually out til April, but hit that pre-order button as it’s one you won’t want to miss!

I always enjoy Ele’s books (you can read my reviews of Boy 87 and Lost here and here.) I’m always impressed with her ability to pack so much into such relatively short adventures (surely she’s got to do Barrington Stoke at some point??)

Quick reads they may be but the characters have depth, the settings are immersive and the plots are full of tension and heart-stopping moments. Melt was no exception.

And like her other books, there’s an environmental awareness and a touch of social commentary running through it, as we come face to face with eroded traditions and dying ways of life, melting ice caps and vanishing animals, and unscrupulous companies with greed at their heart.

As ever though, these are brilliantly threaded through the story – they enhance and give roots to the adventure rather than eclipsing it. As do the themes of friendship, family and learning from other times, places and people that we see explored too.

Set in the Arctic Circle and told from the dual narratives of Bea and Yutu, who find themselves unexpectedly thrown together to brave both elements and enemies, this is a thrilling story of survival.

Yutu lives with his grandma in a remote Arctic village. He’s desperate to follow in family tradition and hunt so sneaks away one weekend to prove himself capable. But the ice has been melting faster than he knew and with a sudden blizzard on the way, he finds himself in trouble…

Bea meanwhile lives in a busy town but has few friends thanks to always being on the move with her dad’s job. She joins her dad, who is a geologist for a big oil company, on a work trip to the area near Yutu’s home but when they arrive things are not quite what they seem and danger is waiting…

And so Bea and Yutu find themselves helping each other, on the run in perilous conditions.

I loved the way Bea and Yutu helped each other, learned from each other, gave each other confidence and courage and ultimately, of course, became friends. But I think Yutu’s grandmother, Miki, was my favourite character. And on both sides, it was nice to see present, supportive adults around.

The Arctic setting is stunningly portrayed, it is beautiful but equally unforgiving and the cold settled into my bones as I read. It was the perfect setting for this tense, fast-paced and thought-provoking thriller.

#MGTakesOnThursday – The Good Thieves

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week I’ve chosen a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages but only just got round to. It’s really been one of those “how have I let it go so long before reading this?” reads too, so I wanted to share it with you!

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Matt Saunders, Cover Art by Marie-Alice Harel, audiobook read by Margaret Cabourn-Smith, published by Bloomsbury

I’d forgotten how much I love Katherine Rundell’s books, but this drew me straight in and reminded me if what a brilliant writer she is; surely one of the finest MG authors around today.

She has such a way with words, especially in the way she makes it do thoroughly readable but also uses such carefully selected, effective and exciting language. Her stories leap from the page and this is no exception.

A brilliantly fast-paced heist featuring a classic ‘odd ball gang’ comprising a knife-thrower, animal tamer, acrobat and pick pocket; the group fizz with energy – feisty and strong, with a hefty dose of attitude.

Similarly, the setting of gritty, grimy, glamorous and downright dangerous prohibition era New York oozes cool and demands drama.

This is a wild and exciting ride in which the action never lets up. I can’t recommend it enough!

And I should also add that I listened to the audiobook which was fantastically narrated too, so I’d highly recommend that as well if audiobooks are your thing!

My favourite sentence from page 11:

A strange man with two guard dogs came out of the caretaker’s cottage and pointed a rifle at him.

This book in three words:

Action. Attitude. Adventure.

Adventures on Trains – Murder on the Safari Star

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Adventures on Trains: Murder on the Safari Star by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, published by Macmillan

This is the third installment in what has fast become one of my favourite middle grade mystery series, Adventures on Trains.

If you’ve not already read the first books (The Highland Falcon Thief and Kidnap on The California Comet), the series centres on Hal who accompanies his Uncle Nat, a travel writer and train enthusiast, on amazing train journeys.

However, they seem to have a knack of landing themselves in the centre of it all as each journey sees a crime committed, with Hal (ably aided by friends on board and his uncle) combining sketching and sleuthing to solve the cases!

Each book can easily be read as a stand alone (but I promise you’ll want to go back and read the others straight after you finish!), with a completely new case, train and supporting cast each time. You can read my reviews of the first books here and here.

Here, we rejoin Hal and his Uncle Nat as they embark on another train ride of a lifetime, this time journeying through South Africa and Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls at Zambia’s border.

The African landscape they travel through and the wildlife they see, both from the train and on safari, really enhance the book, as do Elisa Paganelli’s wonderful illustrations.

There’s also a nice environmental theme running through this, with issues of smuggling, hunting and conservation highlighted. It would be perfect for fans of Lauren St John or Jess Butterworth who maybe haven’t tried this series yet.

So, in some ways, this very different setting gives it a very different vibe to the previous two. However, Leonard and Sedgman are a formidable writing duo who manage to keep it feeling very much in their style and in keeping with the earlier books too.

This is the perfect blend – it keeps it fresh and different, offers up new areas of interest, locations and themes, but ultimately you feel at home – I knew what to expect and was not disappointed!

From the get go, as we join Hal’s family on Christmas morning (which felt just as it should be for them; his dad was spot on!), there’s a warm and gentle tone set – yes, there’s crimes to solve, but there’s a security and light-heartedness too.

Then there’s his Uncle Nat’s unwavering support for, and their open discussion of, Hal’s on board sleuthing. I know I mention this after every book, but I make no apologies as it’s so refreshing to see this adult-child dynamic in a story rather than the missing, dead, cruel or stupid adults we often see.

And let’s not forget the level of detail and passion shown for the trains themselves. Carefully researched and cleverly dripped into the text through Nat’s experience and Hal’s interest in them and sketches, it never feels like an information dump but by the end of the book, we’ve found out all about the train they travel on, its history, route and features. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I’d never have considered myself interested in trains but I’m always fascinated by what I find out in this series!

You can also expect a brilliant mix of characters on board in each book, including Hal’s new partner in crime (detection), in this case Winston…and his pet mongoose!

As ever, the characters/suspects were a great mix from the loathsome to the lovely to the famous and the fun. And of course, there’s suspicion and motive aplenty amongst them!

Like in the previous books, Hal’s sketches (courtesy of Elisa) are his means to documenting and solvimg the case, providing us with diagrams and sketches to aid the solving of te case. These are brilliant and complement the text so well.

I reached Hal’s initial sketch of the passengers as they gather at the start of the journey, present in every book, with proper tingles of excitement – “here we go!” – ready for another mystery to begin.

Because, of course, with young detective Hal and his Uncle aboard, this could never be an ordinary train ride! Helped by new friend Winston, Hal sets out on the trip convinced there’s a crime to solve, but even he couldn’t have foreseen the classic locked door murder he’s faced with!

As ever, I really enjoyed the solving of the case – I had my (correct) suspicions from early on but couldn’t piece them together to make it fit or figure out the hows, wheres and whys of it all so seeing the pieces slowly start to fall into place and Hal put it all together, well, I was glued to it!

I always enjoy the way the motives are explored in this series too; they never justify the crimes, but there’s a level of understanding there, they never feel senseless. This one in particular feels really well done, but I can’t say any more on that!

And of course, there was the obligatory musically themed chapter title for chapter eight, which I’ve now come to look forward to spotting in each one! (chapter 25 gave me a giggle too!)

I can’t recommend this series highly enough – fast-paced, fun and full of mystery, they are hugely gripping and entertaining reads and I am already eagerly awaiting book four which (from the teaser at the end of this) sounds like it’ll be amazing!

Believathon 3 – Orion Lost

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of this in exchange for my thoughts on it. All views and opinions are my own.

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm, artwork by, published by Nosy Crow

This was my choice for Believathon prompt The Shadow – Read a book first published in 2020.

Spaceship Orion is taking a crew from Earth to settle and start a new colony in space. However, when one of its ‘jumps’ goes wrong, all the adults are stuck in their sleeping state and it’s up to a crew of children, who don’t always see eye to eye, to try and get a badly damaged ship past space pirates, unknown alien (Videshi) ships to safety.

Things become more complicated when the children gradually realise something’s amiss, but can they get to the bottom of it and put it right?

I’ll be honest, I’m not a sci-fi fan and this did not sound like my cup of tea at all and, despite knowing lots of fellow bookish people had loved it, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

But I thought it was BRILLIANT. One of the most unique and original MG books I’ve read in recent years.

Whatever my personal reservations, I had been pleased to see a slice of Sci-fi entering the MG world as it felt like there was a real gap to fill and, although I’m no expert, I thought this filled that gap splendidly.

It was full of technical details and language that fans of the genre/space will appreciate, and that give it a sense of authenticity and authority. But, and it’s an important but, its cleverly done so that total newcomers to the genre who don’t speak science (ie me) could not only follow what was happening, but become completely immersed and invested in it.

The characters, and their relationship with each other – particularly the difference, conflict and contrast between Beth and Vihaan – had a lot to do with this. There was a really good mix of personalities which worked really well together and Beth was a particularly likeable and believable main character (and also a handy way to get my head round the more technical aspects of the book as they were explained to her too!)

I really liked the way Beth and Vihaan showcased between them the qualities of a good leader, and the way the novel examined what this was and the balance it needed.

What I also really enjoyed about this book though was the perfectly plotted mystery that gradually developed, subtly at first, creeping up on us a little clue at a time, until we reached a hugely tense and dramatic climax.

Although I did have a couple of correct inklings early on, I didn’t come close to piecing the whole thing together and it really kept me guessing the way the best mysteries do.

I’ll probably never be a true sci-fi fan, but I would absolutely jump on the next novel from Alastair Chisholm so if that counts as being converted, consider me a convert! This was great!