Lilies for Love, by Felicity Pulman

‘I can’t breathe properly, Mus,’ she protested, and pulled away from him. Not giving him a chance to respond, she forked two fingers and jabbed forward, throwing all her weight into the action and aiming straight for his eyes. As he howled in protest, she jerked up her knee and rammed him straight in the groin. For good measure, she then stamped down hard on his toes.

With her life under threat from lord Robert, Janna seeks refuge at Wiltune Abbey, where she must live the life of a nun. Janna is surprised to be accepted there by most of the other sisters, and makes friends with another lay sister, Agnes. She is assigned to work in the infirmary where she expands on the skills she has already learnt from her mother, and helps Sister Anne, the infirmarian, in caring for the sick and injured.

But nothing must distract Janna from her true mission – she wants to learn to read while she’s in the abbey, so that she continue her search for her father and seek justice for her mother, who was murdered by the lord Robert..

Lilies for Love is the third book in the Janna Mysteries series, and sees the feisty Janna solve more mysteries, some related to her ongoing quest and others – such as the disappearance of pages of precious manuscript – side issues, yet intriguing. Set against the backdrop of civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda over the mediaeval English throne, Lilies for love is an intriguing read.

Janna Mysteries 3: Lilies for Love

Lilies for Love, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2006

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond.

Rue for Repentance, by Felicity Pulman

Almost everyone thought she had died. Only two people knew she was still alive, but Janna trusted them not to betray her. It was better for her to be gone from sight. Safer. Meanwhile these clothes, these filthy garments, were part of her disguise, and she would have to endure them.

When her home is brunt to the ground by angry villagers, Janna realises she must flee if she is to stay alive. Lord Robert knows that Janna knows his secrets, and is among those who wanted Janna dead. With no proof of his actions, Janna must keep her suspicions to herself until such time as she can prove them.

When she takes shelter on a manor farm , disguised as a boy, Janna hopes she can start a new life and begin her search for a father she didn’t even know existed until recently. But Janna’s disguise is tenuous and, when she discovers that the owner of the manor is someone she knows, Janna is once again in danger. When the boy Hamo disappears, Janna must find him before time runs out for both of them.

Rue for Repentance is the second title in the Janna Mysteries series, set in medieval times and featuring the feisty Janna, whose knowledge of herbs and healing and keen eye for detail, stand her in good stead as a sleuth. Whilst the book does stand alone, readers will enjoy it more if they have previously read the first title in the series, Rosemary for Remembrance and will look forward to reading the third instalment, Lilies for Love.

Janna Mysteries 2: Rue for Repentance

Rue for Repentance, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2006

You can buy this book online at Fishpond.

Rosemary for Remembrance, by Felicity Pulman

The wolf’s howl shattered the dark, secretive forest. Startled, Janna spun around, straining to pinpoint the direction of the sound. At the sudden movement, the flame of her torch flickered and almost died. Fighting panic, she cupped her fingers around the flame to protect and steady it.

Janna lives with her mother on the edge of the village and close to the forest. Her mother is a healer and villagers come to her with their ailments, even against the wishes of the local priest. Janna longs to leave the village and have the freedom to see the world, but when her mother dies suddenly, Janna realises how very frightening being alone can be.

Janna is convinced her mother’s death was no accident, but proving this is very difficult – Janna has no power and few friends. Yet she seems to be rapidly accumulating enemies – a posturing apothecary, the priest who denies her mother a churchyard burial, and even the husband of the woman Janna’s mother was treating when she died. It seems Janna’s own life might be taken before she has time to figure out who killed her mother.

Rosemary for Remembrance is an exciting mystery story set in medieval England. Janna is a strong teenager, fighting against the odds in her quest for truth and justice. Teen readers will find her strength and perseverance appealing, and will enjoy the novelty of the setting.

Rosemary for Remembrance is the first of The Janna Mysteries and readers will soon be looking out for the next title.

Rosemary for Remembrance (Janna Mysteries S.)

Rosemary for Remembrance, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2005

This book is available online at Fishpond.

Shalott – The Final Journey, by Felicity Pulman

The screen shrieked and went blank. Callie felt herself falling, surfing through space, through an icy blackness that seemed to stretch forever. She knew this, had been through this before. Her plan had succeeded. She was spnining into an unknown, into the last turbulent days of Camelot along with her sister and their friends. This time deadly danger awaited them – but from whom, and from what source? For what purpose had Guinevere summoned her?

Twice before Callie, her sister El and their friends have travelled to Camelot through their father’s virtual reality machine. Each time they have been lucky to return alive and they have sworn not to return. But when Callie hears Gunievere calling her across the ages, she knows she must return, even though she doesn’t understand why she is being called by the woman who has previously tried to destroy her.

Soon the teenagers are back in Camelot and, once again, fighting for their very survival. Callie is charged with rescuing Ana, Guinevere and Lancelot’s child. In doing so she risks losing her friends and their path back to the present day.

The Final Journey is the final installment in the Shalott trilogy from the talented Felicity Pulman. The combination of the Arthurian legend and ultra-modern virtual reality makes it highly appealing to teen readers. Pulman, it seems, is as lost in Arthurian times as her young characters, enabling her to create a believable setting and richly drawn characters. Readers who have come to know Callie in the earlier books will enjoy seeing her face her biggest challenges in this one, in both the real and virtual worlds.

Of course, as with all good series, it is sad to see it end, but the reader will at least feel a sense of completeness with this one.

Shalott: The Final Journey, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2003

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman

Spinning through infinite space, through an icy rushing darkness. Racing towards the unknown. Callie took courage from her sense of the others’ presence, but still she wished with all her heart that she might somehow reverse the process and bring them safely home once more. Yet already it was too late.

After her last visit to Camelot, Callie vowed never to return. The ramifications were just too many. Yet here she is, hurtling through space and time with her friends Stephen and Hal and her twin sister El.

From their moment of arrival, they are in trouble. First, Howell, a squire who befriended the teens on their last visit, is thrown from his horse and killed – an incident caused by his catching site of Hal, who is identical in appearance.

Soon, though, it seems Howell’s death won’t be the only one. Guinevere is not happy to see Callie back, sure that Callie is trying to steal Lancelot’s love away from her. And Guinevere is not Callie’s only enemy. The evil Morgan le Fay wants her out of the way – for good. Only courage and friendship can keep the teens alive until they can return home.

Return to Shalott is a gripping sequel to Shalott (2001) and the combination of the ultra-modern concept of virtual reality with the medieval world of Camelot is a mix which will appeal to a range of teens.

Pulman shows an ability to entwine a well-researched tale with the problems and dilemmas faced by many teens, to make the characters both real and easy to relate to.

Return to Shalott is yet another gripping read from an outstanding author.

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2002

Shalott, by Felicity Pulman

The scene was familiar: the stone walls of the tower, the ladies in their long dresses, the men in tunics and breeches. Callie pinched the soft flesh under her forearm. Hard. It hurt. She was one of the ladies, then. So were Meg and El. Real. Breathing. Just like the two guys with them.

Callie is fascinated by her father’s virtual reality machine. She wonders if she could use it to visit Camelot and change its history. But as she works on her program she is interrupted by her sister El and her friend Meg who want to be part of the game – they want to be characters at Camelot too. In spite of her misgivings, Callie finds herself adding the pair and, finally, two boys they barely know – Lev the street-kid and Stephen, a loud snob. It is all a game that Callie feels is getting out of hand, being spoilt by her pushy sister. But she has no idea just how out of hand this game will get when she is bumped and accidentally pushes the button that draws all five teens into the machine and back into the very real world of Camelot.

At Camelot each of the teens faces a range of challenges. Callie must overcome her timidity to stand up to El, and also wants to use her time in Camelot to win Lancelot’s heart and thus prevent the downfall of Camelot. El must learn to set aside her jealousies and insecurities, while Meg learns where her talents lie. For the two boys the challenges are greater. Lev learns to belong and to be brave while Stephen learns what it means to have friends. In the meantime all must adapt to life in Arthurian times and to the thought that they might be stuck here forever. There are no virtual reality machines in Camelot to take them back to their own time.

Shalott is an intriguing time-travel story. Combining the ultra-modern concept of virtual reality with the medieval world of King Arthur and his court provides a setting and storyline which teen readers will be drawn into. There is much here to appeal to fans of fantasy, lovers of history, and gaming devotees – in fact any teen who loves a good story. Whilst the teens all learn about themselves and their relationships, the reader doesn’t feel lectured or moralised to – this growth and self-exploration is intertwined with a gripping story, not thrust into the reader’s face as can sometimes happen with YA stories.

Shalott is an outstanding read, and readers will look forward to its two sequels eagerly.

Shalott, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2001 (reprinted in 2004)

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman

‘I say, wake up!’ He felt a touch, light as a feather against his face. Alarmed, he opened his eyes and jerked up, fists clenched to protect himself.
He was staring at himself.
Froggy blinked and stared again. He looked just the same…but he was wearing different clothes. Had he died, or what?

Ever since Froggy has come to live in Balgowlah, he has been having dreams about drowning. But, when he does nearly drown and meets someone who looks just like him, he starts to realise that dreams are not his own – they are real events that happened to another boy over 100 years ago. Thaddeus Dearborne, this other boy, needs help – and only Froggy can give it. First though he must learn to trust Thaddeus, a ghost with a secret. Both boys must also learn to trust Cassie Gibbs, one of the most popular girls at Froggy’s school, who has plenty of ideas about how to unravel Tad’s story.

Ghost Boy is, as the name suggests, a ghost story, but it is also a story of friendship, loyalty and family. Pulman moves seamlessly between past and present as she tells both Froggy and Tad’s stories in the early chapters, with the remainder of the story set in the present as Froggy and his new friend Cassie work together to help Tad and to establish the family connection between Tad and Froggy.

This is a fast moving tale which children will be drawn into, wanting to solve the mystery. The historical accuracy of the novel is also appealing, with events set in and around the Quarantine Station in Sydney. Young readers will be fascinated by this piece of history, and those in the Sydney area will be excited to know they can visit and tour the Quarantine Station.

Ghost Boy is a finely crafted adventure tale, with suitability for classroom use, but plenty of appeal for private reading for readers aged 10 to 15.

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2004, first published by Scholastic, 1995