Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy

Wildlight - Robyn MundyBelow, a limp windsock gave way to a clearing in the bush that looked too small for a landing pad. The blue nose of a vehicle peeked through the trees. The helicopter hovered, swayed its hips. They inched lower, the pilot peering through the side window. He manoeuvred the throttle as lightly as a computer mouse. They were even with the treetops, now they were below them. Steph read a painted sign: MAATSUYKER ISLAND. A soft thud, a bounce, the kiss of solid earth, an exhalation as the rotors lowered pitch. They were down, they were safe.

Steph is not thrilled to be coming to Maatsuyker Island. She’s sixteen and supposed to be in her last year of school. Instead her parents have brought her to this remote outpost off the coast of Tasmania to act as caretakers of the island and its lighthouse. They hope that their time there, largely cut off from the outside world, will help the family to heal from the tragic loss of Steph’s twin brother.

Angry and resentful at being on the island, Steph drifts, her studies losing importance and her plan to become a doctor seeming unlikely. Meeting Tom Forrest, a deckhand on a cray fishing boat which visits the island, provides a welcome distraction. 19 year old Tom has problems of his own. He doesn’t want to be deckhand all his life, but his manipulative brother isn’t keen to let him leave. In the meantime, he’s fishing illegally, making Tom party to his behaviour. As the teens grow close, they dream of a life back on the mainland. When Tom goes missing, Steph is devastated.

Wildlight is a haunting, beautiful coming of age tale about first love, set amongst the wilderness in a way that makes the setting almost a character. With most of the book set in 1999, the use of a prologue and concluding chapters set in 2015 shows the impact the teen year events have on the adult lives of the characters.

Mundy’s poetic style and well-developed characters take the reader on an emotion-filled journey.


Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy
Picador, 2016
ISBN 9781743537909

Thirst, by Lizzie Wilcock

Karanda crawled off Solomon and stood up, dusting herself off. ‘Well, you can’t stay here,’ she said, crossing her arms.
‘It’s not your desert,’ Solomon said, sticking his chin out.
‘No, it’s not my desert,’ she said. ‘But this is my escape. I’m running away. I’m doing it on my own. I won’t make you go back to the road, but you can’t come with me. It will be hard enough taking care of  myself – I don’t want to have to look after a little kid, too.’

Since her mother abandoned her, Karanda has been through a strong of foster homes, and has quickly learnt to rely only on herself. So, when a car crash on the way to her sixth foster home sees her stranded in the desert, she takes the opportunity to run. She is going to escape and start a new life of her own. What she doesn’t count on is pesky eight-year old Solomon wanting to tag along. If only he wasn’t so nice to her all the time, she could leave him behind.

Thirst is a story of survival set in the harsh Australian desert, a setting which is echoed in the harshness of fourteen year old Karanda’s life to date. As Karanda and Solomon set out into the desert, hoping to avoid being found following the crash which has given them freedom, they must battle the elements one would expect to find in the Australian desert – heat, thirst, flood, lack of shelter, hunger and dangerous wildlife. They must also battle their own demons and, at times, each other.

Young readers with an interest in survival stories and adventures will enjoy the story and the bush tucker, and as the characters develop will come to want to see them become friends and, ultimately, find happiness.

Thirst, by Lizzie Wilcock
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN 9781742839660&

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier

Kelpie didn’t look at the card between her fingers. She could feel it there, but she was staring at the red splashes on the walls, on the mirror of the wardrobe, across the two paintings, at the blood sliding down them in rivulets. her nostrils flared at the smell from the dead man and she wished she could close them.
She did not see or smell apples.

Kelpie has been living on the streets of Surry Hills almost as long as she can remember. Her friends are mostly ghosts – she alone seems to be able to see and hear them – so she’s no stranger to death, but she is still shocked when she stumbles across the scene where Jimmy Palmer has just been slain. Unwittingly, she is now part of a turf war between mob bosses Glory Nelson and Mr Davidson. She also has a new, unexpected friend and protector – Dymphna Campbell – who was Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s best girl. But Dymphna doesn’t know who to trust: she had Jimmy had been plotting to replace both of the mob bosses, and whoever killed Jimmy must have known that. Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, but he’s a bit hysterical over the turn of events. Kelpie’s only living friend, Snowy, also seems to want to help, but Jimmy says it was Snowy who killed him. Could sticking together be the thing that keeps both girls alive?

Set in 1930s Sydney, Razorhurst is historical fiction with a paranormal element, via the ghost characters. Set amidst the backdrop of a period where poverty was high, and gangs focused on prostitution and gambling preferred the razor as a means of enforcement and retribution, the story is fiction, but does draw on the lives of madams Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, and 1930s prostitutes Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron as starting points for the intriguing characters of Glory and Dymphna.

Kelpie and Dymphna, who alternate as viewpoint characters, seem initially to be two very different people thrown together by circumstance, but it emerges that they have more in common than either thinks. this makes their relationship both complex and, for the reader, intriguing. The events that they endure, both within the short time frame of the book and in their pasts – which we see through flash backs – are violent and traumatic, yet both girls are strong, albeit in different ways.

Razorhurst is absorbing, frightening, and, at times, amusing. It is also utterly readable.



Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743319437

Available from good bookstores or online.

Clariel, by Garth Nix

His fingers arched and suddenly shards of sharp metal spat straight at her, shards made not of true metal but of Charter marks, conjured so swiftly that he must have already had most of the spell put together and hidden on his person, awaiting only a single mark to activate it.
Clariel reacted instantly, ducking under her shards, but even so she felt the heat of their passage above her head.
‘What are you doing?’ squeaked Clariel…
‘Use the Charter,’ bellowed Kagrin, his eyes intent on her own. ‘Defend yourself!’

Clariel doesn’t want to be in the city of Belisaere. All her life she has lived close to the forest, and that is where she feels called to be. But her parents have other plans for her – and so, it seems, do many others. Clariel’s mother has been invited to join the High Guild of Goldsmiths, the main reason for moving to Belisaere. Clariel is a granddaughter to the Abhorsen – though they’ve never met because of an estrangement – and is also related to the King. Her parents want her to marry the Guildmaster’s son; the Guildmaster, too, wants this – because he can then overthrow the King and install her as Queen. Her few allies also find her bloodlines useful, meaning even they can not be completely trusted. All Clariel wants is to escape the city and return to the forest – but that is going to be nearly impossible.

Clariel marks a much awaited return to the Old Kingdom for lovers of the series. Set 600 years before Sabriel, this prequel is set in a world which will be familiar to fans, and which will intrigue new readers. Clariel is a strong female lead, with an interesting mix of skills and problems, most notably her ability to connect to free magic and the fact that she is a berserk, prone to deep rages which give her great strength, but are difficult to harness.

With extras including maps of the Old Kingdom and of Belisaere, a sample of Sabriel and an essay on Free Magic, from the Library of Clayr, fans will be satisfied after their long wait – and many new fans will be hooked.


Clariel, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781741758627

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke

The other girls are looking up and laughing, the tension dissolving around them. But it’s not for Sarah. Where Sarah and Tallulah have found themselves in their first year of college is worse than Sarah could ever have been imagined.

AT school Sarah, Tallulah, Jess and Tallulah were inseparable, so when they were all offered places at the same university college, it seemed certain their friendship would continue to flourish. But none of them could have foreseen the way their first year at university would pan out. Sarah’s having relationship trouble with her long-term boyfriend Wil, Paige and Jess hare both keeping secrets about their new crushes, and Tallulah is partying way too hard. Then Sarah finds Paige face down in the university swimming pool, and although she saves her, the months that follow are confusing. Was it a terrible accident, or did someone hurt Paige? Sarah saw something that night, but hasn’t told anyone, for reasons of her own. Then Jess has a fatal accident, and the remaining girls struggle to remain connected.

Pretty Girl is an intriguing blend of thriller and coming of age tale. Told from the dual perspectives of friends Sarah and Paige, readers are able to piece together much of the mystery of what has happened, but at the same time can only guess at how it will end. Alongside the mystery, we see the two girls, and (to a lesser extent) their friends, struggle to find their place in the world. Their friendships, their relationships and their sense of identity are all questioned as they navigate a tumultuous year.

An absorbing read for teens and young adults.


Pretty Girl, J.C. Burke

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781741663136

Available from good bookstores and online.

Raven Flight, by Juliet Marillier

Three Guardians to find, all in different corners of Alban; three branches of knowledge to master; and then, the disparate talents of humankind and Good Folk to be brought into an alliance strong enough to stand up against the might of Keldec and his Enforcers…all that in a scant year and a half? When I had thus far failed to exchange even one word with the Folk Below? It was…I must not say impossible. I was one of Regan’s rebels now, and I must not even think it. ‘Ill try my best,’ I said.

Safe in the shelter of Shadowfell, the rebel base, Neryn is rebuilding her strength and learning what her skills as Caller might be able to achieve. She knows that, if she can master her gift, she will be a powerful tool for the rebels to defeat the King and free Alban of his tyranny. But mastering her gifts will take time, and suddenly time is something she doesn’t have. If the Rebels’ plan is to work, she has only eighteen months to learn what she needs to know, and gain the support of the Good Folk.

As soon as winter ends, Neryn is on the road, seeking out the three Guardians who can teach her what she needs to know. Each is in a remote corner of Alban, and travelling in a kingdom where her magical skills are perilous should they be discovered is difficult. Her companion is Tali, a fighter who will defend her with her life, but who would rather be elsewhere. As they travel, both face challenges which will test them beyond their limits.

Raven Flight is the sequel to Shadowfell, and the second in the trilogy. For a reader new to the series, it doesn’t take long to get caught up in the tale, though reading the first would be an advantage, and, one suspects, rewarding. Marillier’s characters are engaging, the world captivating and the story tightly woven. Whilst, as is necessary in a trilogy, the ending leaves the reader wanting more, the end point is in itself satisfying, with enough of this instalment resolved, and equally enough hints at what is yet to come.

A really satisfying tale.

Raven Flight (Shadowfell)

Raven Flight , by Juliet Marillier
Pan Macmillan, 2013
ISBN 978174261224

Available from good bookstores or online . Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Metro Winds, by Isobelle Carmody

So there was a girl. Young but not too young. A face as unformed as an egg, so that one could not tell if she would turn out to be fair or astonishingly ugly. She was to be sent to a city in another land by a mother and father in the midst of a divorce. The one thing they could agree upon was that the girl should not be exposed to the violence they meant to commit on their life. There was a quality in her that made it impossible to do the ravening that the end of love required.

Metro Winds

Nobody who has read any of Isobelle Camody’s work can doubt her ability as a story teller, and this new collection of six stories serves only to cement that certainty. Metro Winds, a collection of six stories, is an eminently satisfying offering, diverse yet each connected by its quality and by the movement through the real world to fantastical, alternate worlds. Some have links to popular fairy tales, including the Princess and the Pea, whilst all have settings which will be familiar – Australia, Paris, Venice – and themes and premises which are at once recognisable yet somehow unfamiliar.

With subject matter including broken homes, marital strain and loss, couched in fantastical scenarios such as a wolf prince who abandons his wife and child because of a curse and a sister who mourns the disappearance of her younger sister but must relinquish her in order to safe a world, these are stories which grip the reader and keep the pages turning, staying with you long after the final page.

Metro Winds, by Isobelle Carmody
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781865084442

Available from good bookstores or online.

Froi of the Exiles, by Melina Marchetta

Beside their own balconette was another that belonged to the room next door. After a moment the girl with the mass of awful hair stepped out onto it. She peered at Froi, almost within touching distance. Up close she was even stranger looking and it was with an unabashed manner that she studied him now and with great curiosity. Her brow furrowed, a cleft on her chin so pronounced it was as if someone had spent their life pointing out her strangeness.  Her hair was a filthy mess almost reaching her waist. It was straw-like in texture and Froi imagined that if it were washed, it might be described as a darker shade of fair. But for now, it looked dirty, its colour almost indescribable.
She squinted at his appraisal. Froi squinted back.

Once he was a foundling, and growing up Froi had no idea where he belonged – only that he needed to be quick and wily to survive. Now, though, he is happy living in Lumatere, serving the Queen and her consort, Finnikin. This is where he belongs. But a stranger arrives, seeking someone to go on a mission in the kingdom of Charyn.  And, Froi, it seems, is the perfect candidate. Soon he finds himself at the palace of the enemy king,w here he assumes the disguise of one of the young men chosen tot ry to impregnate a princess and thus break a generation long curse.  But the princess proves a surprise packet, and Froi is also drawn to others in the court, threatening to steer him away from his mission. It seems the kingdom of Charyn may hold the key to Froi’s mysterious past, as well as his future.

Froi of the Exiles is an emotional roller coaster of a book. There is the joy  – such as seeing Finnikin and Isaboe working together to restore Lumatere, anguish – of women separated from children, of lovers forced to live apart – and horror. Lots of it. There are mysteries of parentage, bonds and betrayals. And there is  Quintana, the troubled, trapped princess who nobody likes or understands, but on whom the future of a nation rests.  It isn’t an easy book, with so much emotion, but the characters, and their troubles, are so finely drawn that it is a tough ride the readers wants to take.

Lengthy, at almost 600 pages, the gripping sequel to Finnikin of the Rock,stands alone, so not having read the former should not stand in the way of reading this one.


Froi of the Exiles
Froi of the Exiles, by Melina Marchetta
Penguin, 2011

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.