Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

‘I’m a messenger!’ bawled the nomad. She was even younger than the young guard, perhaps having seen only sixteen or seventeen of the harsh winters of her homeland. Her lustrous skin was acorn brown, her hair black, worn in a plaited queue that was wound several times around her head like a crown, and her dark eyes appealing. ‘I claim the message right!’

With the Abhorsen, Sabriel, and her husband the King on holidays, the Abhorsen-in-waiting Lirael is responsible for protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead and any Free Magic creatures. The last six months have been quiet, but two messages are coming her way. One, carried by a stranger from beyond the walls, is in danger of not being delivered because its carrier, a girl named Ferin, is being pursued by sorcerers determined to stop her. The other message, carried by a messenger hawk, is more successful in getting through. It’s from Nicholas Sayre, who Sabriel feared she might never see again. When she responds to the message she finds him unconscious, near to death. To help him heal, and to learn more about the taint of Free Magic he carries, she must take him to her childhood home with the Clayr. With Nicholas safe she must turn her attention to the other message – one which predicts great danger for the Old Kingdom.

Fans of the Old Kingdom series will be delighted with this latest installment, featuring favourite characters including Lirael, Sabriel, Nicholas and Sam, alongside new ones. Nix seemingly weaves his stories with the magic that is found in his world. The Old Kingdom is a richly woven setting, and the people and beings that populate it are intriguing. This is deeply satisfying fantasy at its very best.

With a bonus Old Kingdom story, Goldenhand is divine.

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758634

 

Also in the Series:

Sabriel
Lirael
Abhorsen

Clariel (Prequel)

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix

9781760112653.jpg‘One – two – three – heave!’ cried the admiral, and the table was slid back in place. He gazed down on its polished surface happily, observed there wasn’t a single irreperable scratch, and then his smile faded like a powder disolving in a glass. A red flush spread up his neck and across his face, and he swayed on his feet as he treid to speak.
‘The Emerald! Where is the – ‘
This was all he got out before he pitched headfirst onto the table, his great bulk making it resound like an enormous drum.

It is Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday and, at a small family gathering, her father is keen to show off the Newington Emerald which will one day be hers. The night goes well until a sudden storm hits the house and, in the chaos that follows, the emerald disappears. As her father lies ill, Truthful decides she must travel to London and attempt to recover the heirloom.

Soon, Truthful is balancing twin roles – that of herself, and that of her alter-ego, a young Frenchman. Disgused as a man she can take risks and gain entry to places she never could as a young man. But there are many dangers, not the least of which is discovery.Then there is the risk of falling in love. Truthful must stay safe and focussed if she is to find the Emerald and save her father’s life.

Newt’s Emerald is a treat. In the style of a Regency Romance, the fantasy blends mystery, romance and intrigue, with the addition of magic and sorcery for an absorbing, satisfying whole.

Fans of Nix’s work will find this a little different – but still with the quality we’ve come to expect. Lovers of regency romances such as those of Georgette Heyer will also enjoy Newt’s Emerald.

A ripping read.

Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112653

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed & The Elf Flute, by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Wishing Seed (Lily the Elf)
Lily hugs the seed tightly. Then she whispers into the fluff.
Lovely dandelion seed
(not a pest and not a weed),
grant my wish
with super-speed,
a princess crown
is what I need!

Lily’s dress up crown is broken and tattered. She dreams of having a sparkly, unbroken princess crown. So, when a dandelion wish seed floats by, she knows what to do. She makes the wish and waits impatiently for it to come true. But nothing happens. Her wise dad and granny tell her that sometimes fixing things is better than wishing things, but Lily isn’t convinced – until both adults help her to fix her crown into something very special.

The Elf Flute (Lily the Elf)
First, she holds the flute sideways. Next, she wiggles her fingers over the holes. Then she blows over the big hole at the top.
She waits for lovely music to fill the room. But there is only a whiffling sound.

When Lily is given a brand new elf flute, she decides she will play it at the Grand Elf Concert, rather than recite the poem she has written. But learning to play the flute is harder than she thought. Will she master it in time for the concert?

The Wishing Seed and The Elf Flute are two new titles in the delightful Lily the Elf series. Each self-contained chapter book features Lily and her family – her father and her granny. Lily tackles problems which are a charming blend of elfish and human problems – wanting or wishing for something, mastering a new skill, appreciating individual talents and so on.

Black and white illustrations on most spreads, simple sentence structures and large font make these titles suitable for emergent readers, but accessibility has not compromised the story quality.

A lovely pair.

The Wishing Seed (ISBN 9781925081060)
The Elf Flute (ISBN 9781925081077)
both by Anna Brandford & Lisa Coutts (ill)
Walker Books, 2015

The Witch's Britches, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Don’t lose these britches, look after them well.
They’ll stop being magical if they smell.

It seems we’ve all been conned into believing that magic could come from a wand. Witches’ magic, it seems, actually come from their magical underwear. When young witch Ethel arrives at magic school she receives a package of britches and a note reminding her to keep them clean. She follows this instruction faithfully until a strong wind springs up one washing day and carries her pants away. When the underwear lands in a local park, all sorts of magical chaos ensues, until Ethel can round it all up.

The Witch’s Britches is a humourous rhyming picture book about magic, witches and, of course, underwear. Youngsters will enjoy the silliness of both the premise and the chaos caused by the flying undwear. The bright digital illustrations have lots of detail to be enjoyed, and work well with the story.

Good fun.

The Witch’s Britches, by P.  Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760151539

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw by Paul Collins & Sean McMullen

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

The three dragons hovering above the city are puzzled. They sense the presence of a young dragon in the city of Savaria, but there hasn’t been a dragon hatchling for 3000 years. Although they can tell when a human is lying, their questions to the king and his court don’t provide any helpful answers. But the answers do buy the humans some time. While Velza and Latsar are trying to do their own investigations, Velza’s brother, Dantar and his friend Marko are being both helped and hindered by Merikus in their quest to leave town. Dantar and Velza’s father cannot be found, although his presence and influence is felt everywhere. The race is on to discover just what the warlock, Calbaras is up to.

The Iron Claw is book three in ‘The Warlock’s Child’ six book fantasy series. Each is told from three viewpoints: the dragons; Velza, a young female warrior, and Dantar. Velza and Dantar are children of Calbaras a highly skilled but secretive warlock. Neither child seems to have much of a relationship with their father. There are twists and turns aplenty as the children (and the dragons) seek to find Calbaras and also to unravel the mystery of why the dragons seem to be protecting Dantar. Each action-filled title is short enough for younger readers, almost as if the stories are serialised, rather than stand-alone novels. Either way, readers will be looking for the next instalment. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw, Paul Collins & Sean McMullen Ford St Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925000948

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Okyto, by Geoffrey McSkimming

Mrs Lowerblast took out her lilacious handkerchief and touched it to the corners of her lavender-lipsticked mouth. ‘Oh, Phylis, I’ve gone over it a hundred times in my head, maybe two hundred times. I’ve tried to remember every single thing that happened when he visited and looked at the bookends, every little detail. But I still can’t work out how he substituted this for the genuine article!’

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto

Phyllis Wong loves conjuring, which is hardly surprising given that she is the great-granddaughter of one of the world’s most successful magicians. When her friend, Mrs Lowerblast, is the victim of a clever theft, Phyllis guesses there’s some sort of magic trick at work, but can’t figure out what’s been done. Then other robberies happen, and Phyllis is sure that they are all linked. Her friend Chief Inspector Inglis is on the case, but he’s baffled. Phyllis is determined to figure out who the thief is, and how he is achieving the seemingly impossible.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is an exciting magical mystery which will intrigue young sleuths and would-be sleuths. The blend of mystery and the world of conjuring makes for an intriguing mix which will keep readers guessing and turning pages.

From the creator of the successful Cairo Jim Chronicles, Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is sure to be well received by middle and upper primary aged readers.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto, by Geoffrey McSkimming
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742378213

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Carousel, by Ursula Dubosarsky & Walter Di Qual

This a book which makes for repeated oral readings, particularly by adult readers to children, who will love the rhythm of the words and the magic of the horses – real or imagined.

One winter’s day my dad and I
Went down to see the carousel.
We stood and watched as round and round
The little horses rose and fell.

This enchanting rhyming picture book begins with the protagonsit,a young girl, watching the carousel with her father before she, too, gets to ride on one of the painted horses. On the ride she is transported, imaging herself galloping free as the wind far from the carousel. But, when the ride slows, the girl feels the horse’s sorrow that it can never be free to leap and bound, to wander in the wilds. So she makes a wish that all of the horses will be free – a wish that she believes come true, with the sound of hooves in the night and the horses running free ever after.

The Carousel is a magical tale of imagination and freedom, told in rhyming verse which scans with a rhythmic echo of the rocking of the horses as they canter free. Most spreads have just one four line stanza, allowing the illustrations to dominate the text. And what illustrations they are – mixed media renderings of the magic of the carousel, and of the horse galloping across red earth, through blue water and against purple night skies.

This a book which makes for repeated oral readings, particularly by adult readers to children, who will love the rhythm of the words and the magic of the horses – real or imagined.

The Carousel

The Carousel, by Ursula Dubosarsky & Walter Di Qual

Viking, 2011
ISBN 9780670074624

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond