‘Six of Crows’ by Leigh Bardugo

I absolutely loved this book; it was way, way, way better than I expected. It sort of had everything you need for a great book. The storyline is crazy, with tonnes of twists and turns, big betrayals, great action parts and some huge plans (to do with the story). I didn’t expect this to be a great book, well, actually, to be honest, I thought it might be pretty bad, but, as it turns out: I was wrong; it was actually an incredibly good book. I loved it.

Leigh Bardugo has shown us how well she can create characters. She introduces us to them in the most incredible way; even writing it from different characters’ perspectives, which makes you read the book in a new and different way. I thought all of this was really great. These parts of the book are written carefully and contribute to the story – they are not a distraction.

The book is set in a fantasy world which has different countries with different beliefs and opinions; it’s full of people who dislike and like different things. There are a race of humans called the Grisha; they have powers and are able to do things, but these things aren’t that strong. There are countries that like and dislike them and also those who hunt and kill them.

Unintentional chaos sort of erupts when a man creates a drug called Jurda Parem for the Grisha which is extremely addictive, has terrible after effects and hugely amplifies the powers of a Grisha and makes them able to do stuff they shouldn’t be able to do. Well, the man who made Jurda Parem has been captured and taken prisoner in the most fortified place in the world called the Ice Court. A 17 year old criminal prodigy called Kaz Brekker has been paid huge amounts of money to break into the Ice Court and get the man out alive.

Kaz is able to use whatever crew he needs, but, even for Kaz, this is going to be an extremely hard task to complete. He might be killed or assassinated after he gets the money.

I loved this book and recommend it if you like fantasy and action. The book might be a bit boring at the start or you might not understand it completely, but, trust me, it gets better, way better. I was not sure I wanted to read it. I’m glad I did. This truly might be one of my favourite books, though that would be really hard to rank. If you read this, I hope you like it, because I definitely did. If you don’t, well, that’s your opinion.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Overall, this is a classic Rick Riordan book. It’s written in his usual style which I love so much. I like it when one of Riordan’s books gets published or he starts a new series. I get so excited and always try to buy or borrow it from a library or even from somebody else. This book is no exception and everything about it is pretty good, but one or two things could have been changed to make it better. It reads like there are thing missing that could have been added in.

This is the first book in the ‘Trials of Apollo’ series, which now has reached its 3rd book; the amazing thing is that he also wrote the Magnus Chase series (I hope its not finished as a trilogy) at the same time: now that’s hard work. He brings in characters from other books he has written and they help make it all happen.  This mixing of characters between books made this story all the better. He has put power, attitude and personality into new characters, some of who come near to being the main characters.

This book has Rick Riordan written all over it, with his funny and mythological style of writing. The writing completely brainwashes me to read on and on and I haven’t even started on the cover of any of the books. For me, if I see a Rick Riordan cover in a bookstore I go wild if its a new book or series.

Its really all about the Greek god Apollo who has been cast down from Olympus by Zeus as a punishment. He’s now in the body of a 16 year old boy named Lester Papadoulos. Of course, on arrival on Earth, he lands in a dumpster in an alleyway and is mugged straight away.  As if this couldn’t get any worse, he is saved by a 12 year old daughter of Demeter called Meg (oh the embarrassment!). He tells Meg that he wants a powerful demigod to claim his service (meaning he does what they say and hopefully that gets him back into being a god). Meg instantly claims his service and becomes his master. It turns out the way he can become a god again is by completing certain trials which turn out to be freeing the oracles (sacred places of prophecy) of the world and defeating the triumvirate (who want to destroy the oracles and Apollo). Lets just say he is probably not going to have a good time doing any of this because, him being a god, he is used to sending demigods on quests to do this sort of stuff.

This is a great book about Greek mythology. I really liked it. I highly recommend this book if you like Rick Riordan, have read one of his books or just like mythology and adventure fiction. If you read this, I hope you like it.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘Insignia’ by S. J. Kincaid

This is an explosion of a book. It’s full of unlimited possibilities and imagination. I found it a bit mindboggling at times; this didn’t stop me piling through the pages of what is a beautifully written read. I think Kincaid had fun writing this book – the characters are all full of attitude and have strong personalities. It has a unique storyline, with what I am going to call bad guys and traitors. It takes the characters to places you’d never expect them to go and has a whole lot of twists. It’s a funny story with happy and mischievous bits at times. It’s both a sci-fi and an action book (there’s probably an actual category of books like this one!).

It is set years from now, where World War 3 is being fought between the Indo-Americans (America and India) and the Russo-Chinese (Russia and China) in space using spaceships controlled by army trained teenagers using Virtual Reality and a computer called a ‘neural processor’ (this is inserted into their brains).

The teenagers are all incredibly talented video gamers from all over America and India. Why do they use teenagers? Because they are the only age group who can handle it; anybody else will go mad or die. But the war is more or less a game for territory in space and money for the big companies and corporations. And, in America, the teenagers train and fight at the Pentagonal Spire which is a tower that has been built at the Pentagon.

The story is about 14 year old Tom Raines (he’s a bit naughty!) who loves gaming and VR and is incredibly good at it. He has a homeless gambling addict of a dad and goes to school in VR. But one day his world is changed when he is spotted by the U.S military and is offered a place at the training facility to become one of the fighters. He is overwhelmed with joy and wants to go so much but his dad does not really like the idea and goes on about how you’ll never be repaid or honoured. But Tom goes none the less. He makes friends and enemies as soon as he arrives but needless to say anyone can be a traitor and even people you think you know well.

I would highly recommend this if you like sci-fi and action books. I loved this book and if you read it I hope you do too. I think there is a sequel to this book and if there is I want to read it so bad! Another thing in the book it says Albert Einstein once said ‘ I know not what World War 3 will be fought with but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones’ and of course this isn’t happening.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Department 19’ By Will Hill

This is a very crazy book; loads happens in its absolutely wild and feral storyline. The book is pretty long but very exciting; it keeps you on the edge of your seat and is a totally worthwhile read. It’s sort of a spin off of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, with the characters each having ancestors who featured in it (some are the actual characters from Dracula because this book contains flashbacks from the original).

The book is set up neatly and nicely. Will Hill has worked hard to make this happen. It all ticks along nicely page after page (and there are 490 pages). I was unsure of this book after reading the blurb. I decided to give it a try and boy was I surprised. It was much better than the blurb made it sound. I really liked it.

The book is about a boy called Jamie Carpenter who is 16 years old. He lives in England with his mum. He has no friends and is bullied at school because his Dad, Julian Carpenter, had supposedly been a terrorist and been shot dead in front of Jamie. This back story would probably make a pretty good book!

One day his life changes. He meets a weird girl called Larissa and it turns out she’s a vampire sent to kill him. For some reason, she doesn’t. It gets worse. His Mum is kidnapped by Alexandru, the second oldest vampire in the world. If you can believe it, Frankenstein’s monster turns up (it has adopted its creator’s name). Frankenstein’ takes Jamie to a place called Department 19, which is the country’s kind of ministry for hunting vampires. It’s also known as Blacklight (it’s kind of a company as well). The Department’s job is to slay vampires.

When he arrives inside, somewhat dramatically, a victim of a vampire attack is wheeled in and so is Larissa. Turns out Larissa is a vampire. She’s been injured by another vampire, but has been arrested for attacking this victim whose name is Matt. Jamie is still taking all these happenings in, when he finds out his Dad wasn’t a terrorist. Instead, he had been a traitor to Blacklight, by giving information to vampires about one of its operations, causing the death of many people.

To save his Mum, Jamie decides he wants to become a Blacklight operative called an ‘Operator’ (they only have one job – killing vampires!), so he goes through 24 hours of brutal training and learns as much as he can about Blacklight and vampires. They get a few leads on where Alexandru and his Mum are but a few of them are tricks and traps. Larissa offers to help and Jamie agrees. This is frowned upon by a lot of the Blacklight operatives (she’s a vampire!).

While this is happening, in Russia, Valeri, one of the brothers of Alexandru, and a pack of other vampires,  have launched an attack on a Russian military base and stolen the contents of one of Blacklight’s vaults. Those contents are Dracula’s ashes. They’ll use them to try to resurrect Dracula. Alexandru launches an attack on a small island called Lindisfarne killing many people and leaving just a few survivors who manage to get to the mainland. Blacklight only send in a small team because they think the Russia incident is more important, The team is Jamie, Larissa, a man called Thomas Morrison, who Jamie had became friends with, and two Blacklight operatives called McBride and Stevenson. Valeri is long gone by the time they get there.

The Blacklight team get to Lindisfarne and find a lot of dead and dying people. One girl called Kate, who is about Jamie’s age, is alive. They see a ancient monastery and take a wild guess that Alexandru and Jamie’s Mum are in there.

Read the book to find out the rest and boy will you be surprised. There are a few sort of flashback stories in between the chapters of the book and those are what make it so long. I recommend this to over 12s who like adventure and fantasy sort of books (it’s not a horror even though it has lots of Dracula and Frankenstein references). The book’s characters are written very well; they are believable (even if the book is totally unbelievable!). This book is one of a series; I am yet to read the rest.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘TimeRiders’ by Alex Scarrow

This as an alright book with a good enough idea. The story is just a bit all over the place and parts of it get boring. It tells you about history, what the future could be and what we might not know. It can get a bit weird at times.   It shows what humanity could make of itself and become. I found parts of this book full of interesting ideas; other bits could have been left out. I recommend it to older readers because of the violent and gory parts (if it was a film it might be over 18s!).

The basics of the storyline (and it’s messed up and hard to explain) are that in 2044 a time machine has been invented. It’s not used now. It’s banned and time travel is illegal because of catastrophic effects to the future it causes. It has three main characters. A teenage Liam O’Connor from 1912, Maddy Carter from 2010 and Sal Vikram from 2026. Moments before their deaths, they are all saved by a man called Foster. They have all been brought to 2001, to a small office, a place underneath an archway of the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City. It’s called the Agency. The Agency stops people from destroying the world with time travel. It tries to maintain time lines.

The Agency is in a two day ‘time bubble’ which keeps repeating on the 10th and 11th of September. The Agency also works with things called support units which are robots who are incredibly human-like. The original robot is called Bob and they use him all the time.

They are all assigned certain roles by Foster. Liam is the field agent who goes with Bob through time, Maddy is the team leader and Sal is the observer who notices shifts in time (changes in time). For a training exercise, Foster takes Liam and Bob into the past to change something and the girls, Maddy and Sal, have to figure out what it was. The Boys go back to 22nd of November 1963 in Dallas, Texas, where they stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John F. Kennedy. The girls figure out what it was that was changed. They tell the boys when they come back and then the boys go back again to restore the time.

Not long after, the time line is altered by a Dr Paul Krammer and a group of men lead by Karl Hass. They have travelled from 2066 to Germany on April 15th 1941. They did it using the first time machine made by a guy called Roald Waldstein. They launch an attack on Hitler’s base. Once inside, they strike a deal with Hitler and help him win the war using knowledge and technology from the future. When the war is over, Krammer takes over from Hitler.

In 2001, Sal notices the time shift and quickly tells the team. Bob and Liam are sent back  to the exact time the Americans surrendered to the German forces, After gathering information, they manage to miss their two time windows to get back. Liam gets transported to a prison camp and Bob decides (instead of going back home with the information) to save him.

The book doesn’t stay with the German storyline. It seeks jumping around. This gets a bit annoying and hard to understand. Like, also in 2001, another time shift happens where New York is turned into a wasteland with little mutant cannibal creatures who roam around in huge packs. This seems to make no sense when you are reading the book.

At this point, the rest of the team are trying to get Liam and Bib back but their time travel generator run out of diesel and they need to get more. They obviously get more. Meanwhile, back in 1941 Germany, Bob has started raiding prison camps to find Liam. Prisoners have joined with him, indirectly starting a small resistance. After six whole months (time in the past isn’t the same as the present), Bob finds Liam and frees him.

This couldn’t happen quick enough, as Krammer has gone insane and built a bomb connected to the time machine he used to get there. It has the power to end humanity. He detonates it a week after its built (Liam and Bob have gotten back to 2001 by now). How are they going to save the world? Liam remembers writing in a guest book when he visited the national history museum while in New York and comes up with the idea of putting a message in it for the team to read in 2001. So he sneaks in with Bob and sets up a bunch of hidden clues to get to the message he’s written in the book.

In 2001, Foster coincidentally (yes, it gets a bit far-fetched, but this is a book about time travel!) remembers the guest book as well and finds the message which has the coordinates for a time window. On the way back, they walk into a trap set by the mutant creatures and Sal is taken and presumably killed, but then Foster assures Maddy that she’ll come back if they restore the time. When they get back, they start charging up the generator for a time window for the set coordinates, but unfortunately the mutant creatures break into the office through weak points.

Luckily (yes, again!), Bob and Liam turn up just in time to save Foster and Maddy. They inform Foster of what happened in the past and they are sent back to the time where Krammer got into Germany and they stop him – they do this pretty violently.

Back in 2001, when the timeline has been restored, Sal appears back with no memory of what happened and Foster bids them farewell because he is dying and he just walks out of the time bubble. There are lots of bits like this which aren’t really explained.

Overall, this is an exciting book with an ok storyline but it gets boring at times. It is trying to fit too much in. It’s overly complicated and some bits are coincidental to the point of being silly. This could have been a better book.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘I am Number Four’ by Pittacus Lore

This is a fascinating book. I loved it; it’s super good. It pulls you in – by the end you’re screaming for more, you don’t want the book to end. Sadly, it had to. I could have read another 100 pages at least. The imagination and thought put into it is clear as soon as you open the book. It is all incredible. The story flows through the pages and you flow with it. Pittacus Lore (must be a pen name!) has turned a simple idea into a roaring adventure.

On the downside, it was hard to fully follow the story at some points (though you will really want to) and you, like me,  may find yourself skipping on from more boring parts to more interesting parts.

It is about an Alien boy called ‘Four’ who is from the planet Lorien. Lorien was once beautiful mostly because the inhabitants did away with pollutants, weapons and anything harmful to the environment. The people of Lorien evolved and most managed to get powers called legacies, but some didn’t. Those with the powers are the Garde and those without are the Cedan species.

The story takes place 11 years after Lorien has been attacked by another alien race called the Mogadorians. They who were in need of resources because of their dying planet and they massacred almost every Lorien on the planet; they left just eighteen alive: nine young from the Garde and nine from the Cedan – the Cedan mind the Garde.

Their planet has been made a wasteland, so the survivors have moved to Earth. Four is one of them. The nine can only be killed in numerical order and 1,2 and 3 are already dead: Four is next.

He is starting to gain his legacies and to settle into the new town where he moved to with his Cepan, Henri. His new identity is John Smith. He was nearly found by the Mogadorians once and it is clear he can’t hide from the Mogadorians for long, as they are now following that lead.

Then, one day, after school ends (yes, he is in school on Earth), the Mogadorians attack. Luckily, a girl, one of the 9, called ‘Six’ appears to help (and by appears I mean appears: she has the power to go invisible). John must make it out of the school alive because he wants the Lorien race to go on and not to die. Read the book to find out what happens next!

There’s lots more in this book. I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll say one more thing. I like the bit in the book where  it turns out his dog can shapeshift and is from Lorien as well.  This is cool.

I would highly recommend this book to over 12s if you like sci-fi and alien stuff. Even with a few boring bits, this is one of my favourite books: honestly, its story is great.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘Tanith Low in the Maleficent Seven’ by Derek Landy

This book is from Derek Landy’s world of Skulduggery Pleasant. This is a well written book. I’ve read all the other Skulduggery books, so I am familiar with the setting of the book. The storyline is a bit nuts: I like it. I read this book quickly. It has all the ingredients. It will, I’m sure, be another hit book for a writer who knows exactly how to create fantasy and adventure stories for kids my age.

The book’s full of cool characters who all have powers and abilities. The way the book is set up is great. It is told from a crazy bad girl’s perspective. This makes the story better. The magic in the book feels real, as it does in Landy’s other books.

The book is about an English woman named Tanith Low who is usually a good character, but here she has been possessed by a ghost thing which wants the world to burn. To help her, she recruits a team of seven people who all have weird talents (some are in the other Skulduggery books like Black Annis, Sabine and Springheeled Jack). They are called the Malificent Seven. They are kind of the opposite of the good guys.

There are good guys. They are the Magnificent Seven, another group put together and led by Dexter Vex, an energy thrower.

Tanith’s goal is to find four God-Killer level weapons and destroy them. Why? Because her ultimate objective is to unleash a god (Darquesse) who also wants the world to burn. Darquesse can’t be killed very easily – only with these weapons. Tanith is willing to do anything to achieve her goal. Dexter is the same. The difference is, he wants to keep them, not destroy them.

The Malificent Seven agree a plant that uses their particular skills and abilities. Dexter Vex finds out about the plan and race to stop Tanith. Tanith also can’t trust her own team and has to stay ahead of all their scheming. Who will emerge triumphant? There’s a lot going on the book. Tanith has to work hard to stay ahead. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers as for a Skulduggery book, it’s a simple enough story.

Tanith is a great character. I’d happily read more books about her. She is a great baddie with skills in fighting, scheming and plotting! The book tells you she was trained as an assassin.

The book is full of adventure, action and funny bits. You can’t help reading it all once you start. It’s not a long book for a Derek Landy story, so I read it quick. I am not sure I’d have enjoyed the book without knowing the Skulduggery world first – so read the other books!

Review by Finn Buck

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‘Darkmouth’ by Shane Hegarty

This is quite a good book. I’d definitely recommend it. In my opinion, the story is quite predictable, but it is still worth reading. I’ve read many good kids’ fantasy books and I am happy to add this one to my list. I love the way all these Irish authors are coming out with these incredible books, take Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy or Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – where are they getting the ideas? I hope the ideas keep coming! Also, the illustrations are incredibly good, like ‘never seen before’ good. The book is about 12 year old Finn (same age as me!) who lives in a town called Darkmouth in Ireland (I think). It’s the last blighted village where monsters (called Legends) appear out of gateways at times from a different dimension. The Legends are horrible creatures who want to live in Finn’s world where the universe is a bit less scary than their own. One family has the job of taking them down and that’s Finn’s family – they are known as Legend Hunters. Finn is a Legend Hunter-in-training. The thing is, Finn loves animals and doesn’t have the skill of a Legend Hunter, but he still really tries to hunt. Bottom line is he’d rather be a vet. Another thing, Finn is the son of Hugo the Great, one of the best Legend Hunters, so a lot is expected Finn. At school, Finn makes friends with the new girl, Emmie, who is fascinated by Finn’s life and likes helping him. Then, when Mr Glad, a friend of Hugo’s invades Darkmouth with an army of Legends, Finn and Emmie need to save Darkmouth. Read the book to find out what happens next. Shane Hegarty has one hell of an imagination. The names of these Legends, like Hogboons or Fomorians (all true horrors!), must have take some though to come up with. I have read the three other books in the series and they each build on Hegarty’s fantasy world. This book is funny in places, I like that. The books could just do with a few more unexpected twists and turns.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ by Derek Landy

This is a brilliant, action-packed, fantasy book. Derek Landy pulls you in and traps you in this book’s claws. I recommend it to kids who like magic, action and danger, as this book is full of these. The book has great characters and it is even quite funny for what is. Well, the story is about a 12 year old girl called Stephanie Edgly. She is a bit bored with her life, then her Uncle Gordon dies. She inherits his big house and everything in it. But an old friend of Gordon’s turns up at the funeral – his name is Skulduggery Pleasant. He saves her life while she’s home alone at her uncle’s house and somebody (a mystery man!) tries to kill her. She finds out Skulduggery is a skeleton and that there is a whole world of magic out there. Soon she is tied up in that world. There people have to take a name to stop other people from controlling them, so Stephanie becomes Valkyrie Cain. Here’s the plot. A man, Nefarian Serpine, has taken the Sceptre of the Ancients, which has extraordinary power – it can kill gods (the Faceless Ones), making him almost unstoppable. Valkyrie and Skulduggery are the only ones who can stop him from controlling the world (with a little help from friends in small places). They also want to solve her Uncle’s murder. I don’t want to spoil the rest of it for you. This is the first in a series of books (there are ten at the moment). I recommend them all; I’d read them again!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘StormBreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz

I think this book series is incredible, fizz-banging good. I recommend it to kids who like mystery and spy books. The book is well written and full to the brim with twists and turns. The story is about 14 year old Alex Rider whose parents died a few years before. He is just your normal schoolboy (who is a black belt in karate …!) until his Uncle (his guardian and an MI6 agent) dies in a car crash. He is left with Jack, his housekeeper, who, for your information, is an American girl. What Alex doesn’t know is that by training him in everything a spy needs, such as karate, sports and extreme sports, his uncle had been preparing him for MI6. MI6 now approach him as they want him to go on a mission for them. He refuses. Then they threaten to take away Jack’s visa so he agrees. Then he finds himself in a SAS training centre, where he goes through two weeks of gruelling training. After the training, he is sent on a mission to the power plant of Herod Sayle, the man behind StormBreaker, an incredibly powerful computer. Sayle is giving these computers free to  every secondary school in England. There’s something not right about these computers and Alex must find out and stop Sayle’s plot. This plot is what got Alex’s uncle killed.  Alex poses as the winner of a contest which sees him invited him to see the first StormBreaker computer in operation. I won’t tell you how, but Alex finds out what it was that got his Uncle killed and what he must do. Alex is now the only one who can stop Herod. I’m not telling you anymore – read it yourself! This is a cracking read and Anthony is an amazingly good writer who bends the words to his will.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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