On the Bookshelf—Joy Court reviews

On the Bookshelf

Night Raiders by Ali Sparkes

Adventure is a big feature in all the books we are featuring on the Bookshelf. Ali Sparkes on the cover guarantees a page turner in my opinion and, having loved Night Speakers, I was so delighted to meet Elena, Matt and Tima again in Night Raiders. These unlikely allies came together when they each awoke at 1.34 a.m. on the dot, night after night after night! Discovering the source of this inconvenient awakening, uncovering the reason for mysterious deaths in the vicinity, and managing to prevent a dark force destroying everything—all whilst gaining the ability to communicate with animals and meeting a teenage vampire, who was also out at night—made for a thrilling read that was just crying out for another episode! Spin the vampire has a crucial role to play in Night Raiders too, and I loved gradually discovering more about him, the burgeoning relationships between all the teen protagonists, and indeed the relationships between them and their animal friends. The threat this time is quite literally out of this world, with a fascinating mix of interplanetary warfare and microbiology. Ali Sparkes can mix genres with incredible ease and absolutely keeps her readers hooked and crying out for more.


The Companions Quartet by Julia Golding

The prolific Julia Golding is also able to turn her hand to many genres, and one of my favourites of her series has been The Companions Quartet. Set in Cornwall, where you expect mysterious things to be lurking around every corner, and featuring The Companions otherwise known as the Society for the Protection of Mythical Creatures (that not only exist but live amongst us), this series has been re-released with distinctive new covers. With the release of the second Harry Potter related Fantastic Beasts film generating interest in mythological creatures, this is the perfect chance to introduce new readers to an immensely satisfying reading experience. The perfectly named valiant heroine Connie Lionheart is at the core of the series, which begins with Secret of the Sirens, in which she discovers not only her family involvement with this secret society, but that she is a universal companion—someone who has compatibility with all mythical creatures, and that she is the first one in almost a century. The Society’s main purpose is to protect mythical creatures from being exposed to humans, something which has become increasingly difficult. Along with this problem, they also have to find a way to stop an evil shapeshifter called Kullervo who wants to wipe out all of humanity to make way for mythical creatures, and he needs Connie’s abilities to help him do it. Each book in the quartet focuses on a particular creature in the ongoing battle with Kullervo and the ongoing struggle to keep the creatures safe and secret. The Gorgon’s Gaze was also available in the summer, and Mines of the Minotaur and The Chimera’s Curse followed this November, culminating with the final heart-stopping showdown between Connie and Kullervo. This is top-quality fantasy world-building, so make the most of this opportunity to replace old copies that will, I’m sure, already have been worn out with constant issuing.


Ronja the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren

Films feature in another re-release that hit the shelves in November. The famed Studio Ghibli created an award-winning 26-part anime series based upon Astrid Lindgren’s 1981 book Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, which is now available on UK TV courtesy of Amazon Prime. The luscious new illustrated edition uses the animation artwork to create a really covetable edition, but thankfully it keeps the 1983 translation by the esteemed Patricia Crampton. Ronja could be described as the original ‘Mighty Girl’! She lives with her father, a robber chieftain, and his band of men in their fortress on the top of a mountain. On the night Ronja was born, a bolt of lightning split the stronghold in two, leaving a huge chasm—Hell’s Gap—in between. Her affinity with the land and the creatures of the magic forest give her a very modern eco-warrior feel too, but it is her intense loyalty to her friend Birk—son of the rival chief on the other side of Hell’s Gap—and the message about loving your enemies and finding ways to settle scores other than violence that makes this such a great and enduring book. With the anime series alongside it is a gift to those of you who run film clubs too!


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