Tag Archives: Netgalley

Phoenix by SF Said

Phoenix: SF Said (David Fickling Books, 2013)Phoenix: SF Said (David Fickling Books, 2013)

I think this is a book to buy in real book format rather than electronic. I read it on my (now considered ancient) Kindle 3 which can hardly do justice to the pictures, plus some of the formatting of the electronic version text is out of sync, which will affect my opinion. I think the book works well as text only, but I suspect the full impact has been lost.

The plot follows a boy named lucky (I’m not sure if the odd capitalisation throughout my version is intentional but I assumed it was*) who dreams of the stars singing to him and awakes one day to find a hole burned through his sheets. This starts a chain of events as his mother rushes to hide him, knowing all along that something like this would happen.

Starting with the you’re-not-who-you-think-you-are premise, and losing the only connections to finding out early on leaves a mystery to solve wrapped up in alien warfare, a galaxy-wide quest, and a host of endearing characters both human and alien.

To talk much of the plot would give away intended twists and turns. There is a review on Amazon, written by a fourteen year old, says the book has twists that will leave everyone open-mouthed. As a thirty-eight year old who has read a few books in her life, I found the twists to be predictable from the hints scattered throughout so no, not even the ending surprised me (although I hoped it wouldn’t be what it was) but that aside, this is a very enjoyable and compelling read.

I can’t give it 5 stars though, and I don’t know whether that’s because the e-book took away some impact because I’ve not seen a real book version to compare. An enjoyable, page-turning, proper science fiction novel for approx age 12+ but please get the real book to fully appreciate it.

*Addendum: I’ve looked at the Kindle preview on Amazon, and the odd capitalisations and out-of-sync text appear to only be in the Netgalley preview.

Second Addendum: Working out the twists from the hints in the plot isn’t a bad thing. I liked that it stuck to its logic and that it was possible to ‘guess’ certain things because of what had been told already. Having an illogical ‘twist’ that makes no sense in the context of the story would have been annoying. I liked that you could work things out, and it still was a page-turner to see if you’re right and find out how the story progressed.

Disclosure: Electronic copy received for review via Netgalley.

The Queen of Dreams by Peter Hamilton

The Queen of Dreams: Peter Hamilton (Doubleday Childrens, 2014)The Queen of Dreams: Peter Hamilton (Doubleday Childrens, 2014)

When I saw the cover for this book, I just had to request it because I love it, and the story synopsis sounded interesting too.

Having said that, although the cover is what initially drew me to this book and I utterly adore it, I’m not sure whether it will put off a demographic who would really enjoy this story. A demographic more used to bright colours in the form of Rainbow Fairies. Honestly, I know that sounds denigrating to this story but it’s not meant to be, I think that The Queen of Dreams would suit Rainbow Magic readers.

The two main protagonists are young women – sisters, aged eleven and twelve; they discover another world full of fairies with a bad guy and his minions to fight; and it turns out that actually they’re princesses with magical powers. That seems the perfect recipe for pulling in the Rainbow Magic demographic to me.

I was going to write how I found the names not gelling for me – names like Sophie exist side by side with Piadrow and Katerinell (her parents) and the mix of ‘normal’ and outlandish names seemed odd. Also one of the sisters is called Taggie, which isn’t explained until almost the last page. But then the last book I read was The Hounds of the Morrigan, which had just as much as a mix of names and places, and one of the siblings is called Pidge (although this is explained a lot earlier.) I think the reason I had a problem with the names was that the story wasn’t drawing me into the world enough to follow everything.

In many ways, The Queen of Dreams is comparable with The Hounds of the Morrigan, creating its own mythology rather than using an existing one, involving travelling through various places and meeting a host of characters who help or hinder until eventually trying to defeat evil. In the case of The Queen of Dreams, the children involved turn out to have a host of magical powers unlike the children in The Hounds of the Morrigan.

Although I wasn’t completely drawn into the world whilst I was reading, I’d put that down to real-life distractions and voice-finding issues as the author moves from writing adult fiction into children’s fiction. Surprisingly, I’ve not read any other Peter Hamilton before, despite hearing good things about his novels and generally considering myself to be a reader of SF.

The book is illustrated throughout by Adam Stower, and I love his picture book work so that was a highlight and I’d love to see the real book version to get the full impact of them as I find illustrations don’t really work as well on a Kindle. And I do love that cover so very much.

The ending doesn’t happen when you think it does, leaving a nice second ending which grabbed me and made me want to read more about this world. A welcome unexpected twist in the tale. I did like the idea of Taggie and Jemima having another world to go to in the school holidays, a bit more interesting than your usual family trip!

A book that manages to include surfing hippy elves, a 1940’s Princess Elisabeth, fairies, human-sized squirrels, dark lords, talking gates, time travel, magical battles, and matriarchal societies can’t go too far wrong, and I want to read more. It’s currently too old for my daughters (ages six and four) but I think it’s one that my eldest might love once she’s worked her way through Rainbow Magic.

Disclosure: Electronic copy received for review via Netgalley.