‘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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‘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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‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis

This fantastic book really packs a punch. It has a great storyline set in an amazing fantasy world. I love the idea of it all. There’s a whole world of ideas here. Everything in the book just comes together so well. It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. At times it’s sad; at times its happy and so on. It has really great characters which, even though it’s a fantasy book, would not seem out of place in the non-fantasy world (with the exception of the supernatural creatures – who’d probably find our world weird!). The characters just seem to jump off the page and come to life in your head.

It’s set in England during World War Two where four siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have moved to a professor’s house in the countryside to get away from German air raids (my Grandad was sent to Ireland, so I get this). They are a bit bored in the house (no TV!). To pass the time, they run around the house playing hide and seek. When I got to this bit, I started thinking: ‘where’s the wardrobe?’ You can’t help it – this is such a famous book. It was read to me when I was younger.

Anyway, Lucy decides to hide in a wardrobe (!) and it turns out this is a gateway to a mythical world called Narnia. In Narnia it’s winter. Lucy finds herself in this snowy place. She looks around and sees a strange man thing called Mr Tumnus. He’s a Faun (half man, half goat). Lucy is utterly shocked, but Mr Tumnus is extremely nice and kind to her. He tells her that Narnia is in winter all the time at the moment because of the evil snow queen. Lucy spends quite a while talking, but she gets cold and wants to go home. She walks back into the magic woods.

When Lucy gets back through the wardrobe into the professor’s house, it turns out she has only been gone for a minute; when she thinks it was hours! She thinks she has time to go in again and does, but this time Edmund follows her. His timing is terrible – the evil Snow Queen arrives and talks to him. She gives him magical Turkish delight and hot chocolate. The are so lovely they just make him want more no matter what. He’s addicted! He wants more so badly, he’ll do anything the snow queen wants. She keeps asking questions. He tells her about his family.

She promises him more of the magical treats if he brings his siblings to her. He agrees. It isn’t him who brings them to Narnia, its actually, if you can believe it, some sort of weird paranormal activity (Narnia is not a normal place and you get there in weird ways). They all find themselves in Narnia.

Almost as soon as they arrive, they meet a talking beaver who tells them to come to his house. When they get to the talking beaver’s, they talk about going to find Aslan the Lion at a place where there’s a stone table. I think Aslan is mean to be kind of like a god.

Edmund, being addicted to those treats, slips off to tell the Snow Queen where the others are and that they are going to the stone table. This time he doesn’t get more Turkish Delight; instead he gets bread and finds himself a prisoner. The Snow Queen sends some wolves to the beaver’s house. Luckily, they have already left and are on their way to the stone table. On the way, they meet Father Christmas who gives them all presents! Peter gets a sword, Susan gets a bow and quiver and Lucy is given a dagger and healing potion. This bit of the book makes you smile.

While that is happening, the Snow Queen is fast making her way after them. When the kids make it to the stone table, the Snow Queen’s wolves attack, but they are beaten by the forces of Aslan’s warriors. The free Edmund. They meet Aslan at the stone table. He talks to Edmund who realises what he has done.

Aslan also talks to the Snow Queen. Nobody realises it then, but Aslan has agreed to be sacrificed on the stone table. They move away from the stone table to the side of a river where they make camp. That night, the girls, Susan and Lucy, can’t sleep. They go with Aslan as he walks toward the stone table. They reach a point  where he says they cannot go any further; they follow him anyway and see him being sacrificed.

Aslan comes back to life through some magic (it’s not clear). They go to the Snow Queen’s palace to free prisoners who have been frozen in ice. There are a lot of prisoners- enough for a small army. This is good news, because Aslan needs them. There is a battle going on  between the Snow Queen’s army and Aslan’s forces. Peter and Edmund are fighting with Aslan. Peter is using his new sword. They win the battle.

For some reason the four siblings become the kings and queens of Narnia. It turns out that in Narnia time, they’ve been there for years. When they go back home to their world they are kids again and literally no time has passed since they went in.

I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy and adventure. Don’t be put off with it being an old book. It’s a famous book for a reason. It doesn’t seem old when you read it. It’s also a series of books and it has been turned into movies. C.S. Lewis is also an unusual and brave writer because in later books he gets rid of a few characters. Compare this to Harry Potter which keeps the same main characters throughout the entire series. I think this is a good idea as it leaves every kid thinking: ‘it could be me next!’

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a bit weird, but I enjoyed reading it. It’s got magic in it, but not like Harry Potter. I’ve seen an old Wizard of Oz film as well, so I kind of knew what the book would be like. It’s easy to see why it would make a film. It is an adventure into another place which has witches and wizards!

The book is about a girl called Dorothy who lives in Kansas in America with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. She lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. One day it got really windy – really, really, really, windy – a thing called a tornado picks up Dorothy and Toto, her dog, and their whole house and blows them away. I think their farmhouse was made of wood. I’m glad my house is made of concrete and stuck to the ground, so it can’t blow away. They have a place called a “Cyclone Cellar” in the basement where they are meant to be safe, but it doesn’t help when the whole house is blown away!

The house, with them in it, lands in the Land of Oz It lands on top of the Wicked Witch of the East killing her. Another witch, a good witch (the “Good witch of the North”), comes over to Dorothy and says welcome most noble sorceress. She says the Munchkins – the people who live in Oz – it is “Munchkin Land” (I’ve been called a Munchkin by my Mum and Dad and that’s where the word comes from!) will be most grateful for her having killed the Wicked Witch.

Dorothy wants to go home and doesn’t know what to do. The good witch tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz who can help her get home. She gives Dorothy silver shoes (they are red in the film I saw). Dorothy and Toto start walking. Along the way they meet a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion.

It’s funny how Dorothy meets the scarecrow. He’s in a field on the side of the road and when she looks at him, be blinks. As they scarecrow’s face is painted on, she thought she was mistaken, but she wasn’t. None of the scarecrows in Kansas blinked! Then the scarecrow nodded. Dorothy climbs over a fence and walks over to the scarecrow with Toto running around barking. The scare crow then said good day. If I was Dorothy I would have been scared. Dorothy then speaks to the scarecrow and it’s ok.

They all want Dorothy to help them get to the Wizard of Oz who they say will help them get what they want. The scarecrow wants brains, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage (he is a cowardly lion). Dorothy helps them and they decide to follow her along the yellow brick road. When Dorothy meets the Munchkins they also think she is a sorceress and treat her well. Things happen along the way.

They arrive in the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz says he will only help Dorothy if she kills the Wicked Witch of the West. They try but find it’s impossible as the witch has magic. The good witch helps Dorothy and stops her getting hurt by the wicked witch. I don’t really understand how she kills the wicked witch. I think it was by an accident.

Dorothy goes back to the Wizard of Oz who acts all weird. Dorothy finds out the Wizard of Oz is not a wizard – he’s just a normal man. He has just been pretending to be a wizard. He can’t keep his promise to help Dorothy get home because he doesn’t know how. He’s lost in the Land of Oz as well.

The scarecrow, tinman and lion are disappointed but the wizard tells them they already have the things they need inside them (wisdom, love and courage). The three insist they don’t, so he gives them tokens of each thing they want and they are happy.

To try to help Dorothy, the wizard offers to take her in a hot air balloon to Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who he says can help her. It turns out that the silver shoes Dorothy was given when she arrived in Oz are magic. They can take her home. They all say goodbye and Dorothy and Toto go home.

I like everyone in the book (even the Wicked Witch of the West), but my favourite character is Toto. Toto is a little dog – Dorothy’s best friend because she doesn’t have anyone else to play with. I liked him because he is cute, but also because he helps her not to be scared. She loses him once and gets him back. I liked Dorothy, but she is the main character and is in nearly every part of the book, so it is hard to remember everything she does. She is very brave and has to lots of scary things in this book. I wouldn’t like being taken to another world.

This is an old story but a very good one. I enjoyed it. I would read more books about the Land of Oz (there are lots more in the library). I am 8 and I was able to read it ok. It’s not a long book. It’s not really funny; it makes you smile though.

Review by Lara Buck aged 8. Edited by Finn Buck aged 12.

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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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‘How to Train Your Dragon’ by Cressida Cowell

This is an extraordinary book. It’s hard to believe the tremendous imagination and thought Cressida Cowell has put into it. You can see all of her work on every page. When I first read it, I absolutely loved it, especially its classic humour and crazy storyline. I recommend it if you like adventure and fantasy.

The book is set in a fantasy world, where dragons are real and can be tamed.  There are tribes of Vikings called The Hairy Hooligans, The Meatheads and similar. They live on islands in an archipelago. It is about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock 111, who is the son of the chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe Stoic the Vast on the island of Berk.

Well, Hiccup and 10 other boys are part of the Dragon Initiation Program, where they try to become full members of the Hairy Hooligan tribe. While most of the boys are tough and muscly, Hiccup and his friend Fishlegs are what you’d call ‘runts’. All the boys grumble when Hiccup is made their leader (to prepare him for being chief when he’s older).

Their first ‘mission’ comes up, they have to steal a dragon and tame it, but Fishlegs accidently wakes up one of the deadly ones. This causes chaos and Hiccup only gets a common or garden Dragon (same type) and names him Toothless. Toothless is a really BIG troublemaker. Then, after months of training, they try to pass the test to get into the tribe. Then Toothless causes loads of trouble and all the boys are to be exiled.

Before that can happen, a storm washes up two giant sea dragons called Green Death and Purple Death. This is a big problem. Hiccup comes up with a plan to get rid of them or kill them. His plan is to get them to kill each other by annoying them, but Green Death survives and he swallows Hiccup. Incredibly, Hiccup kills him from the inside. For their heroic acts, the boys are allowed to be a part of the tribe.

Overall, I think this is a pretty cool book which brings an entire new world with it. I think the film just about does justice to the story, though I loved imagining everything in the book while I was reading it. Read it: don’t just watch the film!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘The Martian’ by Andy Wier

Out of all the books I’ve ever read, this one has to be my favourite: really. It’s about Mark Watney, an astronaut botanist, who is stranded on Mars by himself, as his crew left to return to Earth because thought he died. The first sentence of the book has some bad words;  Mark has found out he has been stranded on Mars and isn’t happy! He does “smart ” things to survive, like burning rocket fuel and blowing stuff up. Lots of stuff.

I’ve read the book six times and still can’t stop reading it. The humour is fantastic; it never gets old. It goes from something serious to something random or to a great moment – then it blows up (yay!). If you are thinking of reading the book or watch the movie, I highly recommend reading the book first; it explains unexplained things in the movie. The book says what the NASA name is for; it then says what it actually is.  I also think the book is funnier than the movie.

Even though the book was written in 2011, it seems too futuristic to have been imagined then. Seriously, there is stuff in the book like MAVs (Mars Ascent Vehicle) and RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) and EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activity): way to complicated for 2011. Definitions for MAV, RTG and EVA are not in the book, so I had to guess their meanings.

Overall, Andy Weir has made the best book I have ever read.

Review by Deasun Byrne aged 12 (my first review for this site).

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‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness

This is an extraordinary masterpiece of writing for what is  a kids’ book. It shows humanity in a true way I have not read before. It is beautifully descriptive and packs a big punch. The idea was originally formed by Siobhan Dowd when she had cancer. I would highly recommend the book to kids over 10 years old and also to people who like sad and mysterious books. It is a hard book though, it’ll make you think and probably make you cry.

This book illustrates life lessons through an incredible storyline. The book is about 13 year old Connor O’Malley whose mother suffers from terminal cancer. She has had so many cancer treatments but they don’t seem to be working. Connor gets the same nightmare every night; he calls it ”the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming”.

Connor is bullied at school and he isolates himself.  His dad is no help (he uses his family in the USA as an excuse not to get involved). Connor wakes up one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window. He meets the monster (a yew tree in his garden) who tells Connor he summoned him. The monster appears at 12:07 am or pm every day and he says he has three stories which he will tell and they all have a different perspective on humanity (all the stories are a time when the monster was summoned),

After the monster’s stories, Connor is expected to tell the fourth story also known as ‘the truth’. The stories make something really weird happen to Connor; they make him isolate himself even more. When all three stories have been told, Connor has to tell the fourth story. This involves reliving the nightmare and reliving the truth. The nightmare is his mum being pulled into the abyss and Connor is holding onto her and he doesn’t want to let go, but in the end he always does.

This is the truth he lets go because he doesn’t want to go through anymore pain and suffering. The monster has shown him the truth which Connor knew, but hid away from himself. His Mum ends up dying. This, in truth, is probably the saddest story I have ever read. I think anybody could love it though. I’ll remember this book for a long time.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Knights of the Borrowed Dark’ by Dave Rudden

This isn’t the best of books. I’m not sure why. I look forward to reading in the car on the way home from school, but I wasn’t when I got back in the car while I was reading this. I think it could be written better. This is Irish writer Dave Rudden’s debut book (it says so on the cover). Perhaps this is why. Hopefully his next book will be better. It’s a good idea for a book and has a storyline I’d usually like; I also like the characters because they all have unique personalities, so there’s plenty of potential here.

The book is about 13 year old Denizen Hardwick who has been in an orphanage for 11 years (like most orphanages in books, it’s nasty). He has been reading fantasy books for years wishing they were about him.

It turns out he has family and this family does have powers. He is collected from the orphanage by a man named Grey who has these powers. Grey explains what has been going on. It turns out Denizen has an aunt who lives with other people at a place called Seraphim Row (in Dublin, Ireland!). His Aunt wants to see him and has sent, him, Grey, to pick him up. Denizen learns he has powers, but also how these powers comes with a price. It causes anyone with the power to turn to iron, starting with their hands.

On the journey to meet his aunt, he’s attacked by a monster. Denizen finds himself in a fantasy world where he has to join the Knights of Borrowed Dark – his aunt is their leader – in a war with The Tenebrous. These are the monsters he has to fight. Their leader is called the Endless King. Denizen quickly has to learn to use his powers.

Weird things start happening at the orphanage, The Clockwork Three, monsters you should only see in nightmares, have taken over. They are keeping the daughter of the Forever King hostage and he is angry. Denizen wants to stop this and he probably can, but he’ll need help. Even then, it’s going to be hard.

I think Dave Rudden is onto something here. He has all the ingredients. He’s just not putting it together like Eoin Colfer or other kids’ fantasy writers do. I just didn’t get pulled into the book. I didn’t really believe some of it (even though it’s all fantasy!) and there are bits that are hard to follow and not explained. The book is worth reading for the twist at the end. I am sure the next book will be better.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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