Time is running out and Ike and his friend Mellie have two equally urgent missions. Ike has to return the Book of Grimmery to Grimmery so that the Princess can be crowned Queen and save her land and people. Mellie wants to free the Collected children before the Fey Queen does them any more damage and it’s too late. To help and hinder Ike, a sprite has a crush on him, which embarrasses him and enrages Mellie. And then there’s the stolen weapons…
‘I’m planning the perfect crime,’ said Mellie.
‘I wondered why you’ve been so quiet,’ said Ike.
He was standing in Claudius the cornicle’s cramped left side-pouch, which he shared with Mellie for the past day as the horned beast flew towards Grimmery.
Ike could not get used to his best friend being an apprentice thief from a clan of thieves. Before he could ask what Mellie meant, however, a petite, pink-haired figure hurtled across the sky above them, swinging two round objects around her head on strings. Tinkling laughter trailed behind her.
‘What was that?’ said Ike.
Time is running out and Ike and his friend Mellie have two equally urgent missions. Ike has to return the Book of Grimmery to Grimmery so that the Princess can be crowned Queen and save her land and people. Mellie wants to free the Collected children before the Fey Queen does them any more damage and it’s too late. To help and hinder Ike, a sprite has a crush on him, which embarrasses him and enrages Mellie. And then there’s the stolen weapons, tortured knight, escaped creatures of the underworld, boastful liars, goblins and more. And if he has to fall to earth one more time, surely there’ll be nothing left of him. But even if he does fall again, he has to get up. For some unfathomable reason, everyone seems to depend on him. If only he could work out just why…
There is grossness and grot, sickly sweet love, talking books and teachers who regret earlier assessments. Everyone seems to want revenge for deeds real and imagined, and often very, very long ago. There are some long memories in Wychwold. Grudges, grumps, tantrums, betrayals, all hilariously ridiculous. But this is the final instalment and finally the reader will discover: whether Ike really has what it takes to be the hero of this series; whether he finally works out why Mellie has stuck with him all this time; whether the Fey Queen will succeed in destroying all of Grimmery; and whether, at the end of it all, everything is Ike’s fault, as so many seem convinced it is. Ike has learned a lot over the previous novels, but his self-belief is still easily shaken. Highly recommended for upper primary readers and beyond.
The Calamitous Queen, Ian Irvine
Omnibus Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.
In a sealed cave at the heart of a forgotten mountain, a blind seer sat in the dark between two mirrors that were reflecting the silvery tendrils of times to come.
‘Find the Gate Guardian who calls himself Ike,’ said the watcher who wasn’t there. ‘I see him, my queen,’ said the seer. ‘He’s drawing with the magical pen.’
The watcher rubbed a patch of tarnish on her silvery arm. ‘This pen bothers me. Tell me about it.’
‘Alas, my mirrors can’t see into it,’ replied the seer.
‘Then make his drawing go wrong!’ cried the watcher, vexed.
Taking hold of the time tendrils, the seer wove a new future. ‘It is done.’
Ike and Mellie are trying so hard to do the right thing, but it’s hard to know which ‘right thing’ to do first. Pook says they should rescue the children. Mellie wants to make sure her family are okay. But if they don’t find and retrieve the Book of Grimmery and soon, it might be too late for anything else. The search for the book takes the intrepid pair up mountains, down deeper than they’ve ever been and at every step they are booby-trapped, tricked, deceived and more. And sometimes it seems that they will never find their way. Ike is forever getting things wrong and incurring the wrath of trainee thief, Mellie. Then they meet the Desperate Dwarf. And his name is Con Glomryt.
Desperate Dwarf is the third of four books of the ‘Grim and Grimmer’ saga. Ike is a tortured hero, never sure that he’s making the right decisions. But in true hero style, he keeps going, even when what he’d really like to do is just go home. If he had a home to go to. Mellie is cantankerous and sharp-tongued but does occasionally remember to thank Ike when things do go right. And she’s inventive and has some skill as a thief, even if she doesn’t always think through her actions. This is high-camp fantasy set in a world full of nose-haired dwarfs, evil pink ladies, and some horrid Night Gaunts all with wonderfully inventive names. This series is a delightfully grungy introduction for young readers to the world of fantasy. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly those not ready to leave the bottom jokes behind.
Desperate Dwarf , Ian Irvine
Omnibus Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.
If Ike had stayed home from school that Tuesday, he would never have betrayed a princess nor robbed a murderous queen. He would not have been tied to an insane imp that was desperate to eat his liver. He certainly would not have floated across a strange land on an impossible rescue mission, powered by exploding manure.
Nor would he have tried to escape via that disastrous troll-bum door.
But Ike went to school.
Ike is an unpopular kid who doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right, so it is little surprise to him that he has a disastrous day at school. What does surprise him is what happens after he leaves the school, expelled. Suddenly he finds himself in another world, where he accidentally betrays a princess, then sets off on a quest to remedy this by rescuing her from the murderous Fey Queen. Luckily he finds some friends in Mellie, an apprentice thief, and Naggerly, a talking horse. Together the three embark on a seemingly impossible quest tor escue the Princess.
The Headless Highwayman is the first book in the Grim and Grimmer series from fantasy genius Ian Irvine, who manages to create a world which is believable, thrilling and funny all rolled into one. Young fantasy fans, and those new to the genre, will sympathise with Ike and enjoy characters such as Naggerly and Monty, the headless highwayman who talks through his bottom.
Lots of fun.
The Headless Highwayman (Grim and Grimmer), by Ian Irvine
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Why couldn’t Ike have kept his mouth shut?
Things were going to get really bad anyway, about as bad as things can get. But if only he had kept silent, Ike would not have had to poke an imp’s brain back in through its ear hole with his finger.
He would not have gone blind, then been carried by an enraged demon called Spleen, upside down and with his bum hanging out, all the way across Grimmery.
He would not have been turned into a night-gaunt, the creature he feared more than anything in the world. Nor would he – it – have attacked his best friend.
And most definitely, he would not have died.
Oh, yes, Ike dies in this story.
He’s dead as a doughnut at one stage.
Ike and his friend, Mellie, are escorting the rescued Princess Aurora back to Ambra, capital of Grimmery, so she can take her place on the throne and thwart the evil Fey Queen who wants to take over her country. Ike’s feeling good, anticipating their warm reception, and daydreaming about the Princess. Unfortunately the Princess doesn’t share his daydream and a good day suddenly turns very sour. The Princess abandons her escort and a demon appears. Far from being over, their adventure is just beginning. Evil is all around and Ike and Mellie are going to have to travel far and do many brave deeds if they are to help Princess Aurora and their country. They must unite to find the Book of Grimmery. If only they could stop insulting each other.
Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin takes the two reluctant heroes on a very wild ride. As the title suggests, every time it seems things are as grim as they can get, they get grimmer. But not without humour. The Grasping Goblin is very funny too, as well as dangerous, gory and grotty. It makes particularly good use of smell, and makes this reader very glad that the novel is not ‘scratch-and-smell’. Ike and Mellie have to work together to achieve success and their bravery and ingenuity see-saw in their pursuit of secret spells. Allies and foes take all shapes and colours and often it’s hard to tell which is which. Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin is a grand adventure and it’s not over yet. Look out for the next title in this series. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin, Ian Irvine
Omnibus Books 2010
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com
‘All right so far,’ he called back, pretending to be cheerful. ‘I won’t be long.’ Unfortunately his voice squeaked and made him sound even more scared than he was.
A minute later his skin prickled, there came a dull flash and Kim cried, ‘Help! Help!’
As Tamly scrambled backwards along the path, all he could hear was distant, eerie laughter.
Tamly is the only person in Meadowhythe who can’t do magic. He wishes he knew why, and longs to learn magic. But it is precisely his lack of magic which makes him ideal for the dangerous challenge of rescuing the Book of Spells from the evil sorcerer Lord Harshax. Together with his magically gifted friend Kym, he sets out to steal the book and save his village.
Thorn Castle and Giant’s Lair are the first two of four books in the Sorcerer’s Tower series from Omnibus. Each book is a short self-contained tale, but each builds on the last to complete a bigger story, allowing the tale to be read in bite-sized portions perfect for the reluctant or younger reader.
From one of Australia’s masters of the fantasy genre, this action-packed series is a wonderful introduction to the genre for readers aged 9 and over.
Sorcerer’s Tower: Thorn Castle and Giant’s Lair, by Ian Irvine, illustrated by D. M. Cornish
Thorn Castle and Sorcerer’s Tower are available from Fishpond. Buying through these links supports Aussiereviews.