This Young Adult novel sucked me in from the first line. A Master Cheesemaker who lives underground in a City called Caverna has discovered something eating his cheeses, but he can’t seem to trap it, until one day he spots its footprints in the remnants of a soft cheese – those of a 5 year old child. Once he discovers the child, he takes her under his wing and names her after one of his cheeses, Neverfell. Neverfell is an intriguing child who asks many questions, and grows up under his cheese tutelage. But he makes her wear a black mask whenever there is a chance that anyone could see her. When children are born in the caverns of Caverna, they are unable to learn facial expressions from their parents or nurses. Their faces are blank until they are taught a series of Faces by those watching them. Those who are poor learn very few expressions, those that are rich have more opportunities. Neverfell feels trapped but knows nothing different until a Master Facesmith visits their cave and things start unravelling. With a Master Kleptomancer stealing treasures from those in power and a Steward ruling the city who could be insane, how will Neverfell survive? (Submitted by Sharleen)
I had just about given up on heroic fantasy. Then, I discovered Kings of the Wyld, a fresh and lively standalone adventure that is gripping, funny, and occasionally brutal. The plot is familiar. Circumstances force a former mercenary band of heroes to reform for one last quest. But the mixture of classic high fantasy tropes from Tolkien, the grittiness of Joe Abercrombie (without the pessimism), and the light satirical touch and humour of Terry Pratchett, give this story an engaging vigour.
In the end, it’s a very human story with sympathetic, likeable characters, especially the main protagonist Clay Cooper. He is an affable man who would like to put his violent past behind him and enjoy a peaceful life with his family. But of course, fate is not done with him yet. He must rise to the occasion one more time, and persuade his erstwhile companions to join him. Along the way they face every sort of magical and monstrous creature in the fantastic bestiary, and face some mighty foes in battle. They must rediscover the power of friendship and family, and what it means to be a hero.
Recommended for lovers of heroic fantasy or anyone who likes a rousing adventure and doesn’t mind a certain amount of graphic violence. (Submitted by Jim)
Ah, the power of a page-turner. I hesitate to classify Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie as one particular genre because there are elements of urban fantasy, thriller, mystery, and contemporary fiction throughout. Vincent has created an alternate reality of sorts, where fantastical creatures (everything from the phoenix to human hybrid-esque mermaids, centaurs, etc.) live among us. Well, that’s not quite accurate. They don’t live among us. They have no rights at all. They are caged and abused, either for spectacle or research.
Enter Delilah, who is a smart young woman (too smart for her small hometown in Oklahoma) and is already opposed to the treatment of “cryptids.” While on a birthday trip to a traveling circus, Delilah is revealed to be more than what she seems – perhaps a cryptid herself. She quickly realizes just what this means as she is stripped of her every right and sold into the menagerie. Of course, now being on the other side of the bars means she must befriend her fellow cryptids while gaining a more thorough understanding of their lives. She also has to decide whether or not to trust the mysterious staff member Gallagher, who has his own story.
Vincent has created a world that feels absolutely real and there is a real battle of ethics here. I liked Delilah and I was desperate to know what happened next. Other reviewers have noted that the ending felt rushed, which I agree with, but it was such a thrilling read that it almost doesn’t matter. Serious page-turner alert! (Submitted by Veronica)
Borrow Menagerie from Surrey Libraries now!