The Dreamsnatcher: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

3

 

 

manical book club button

 

Welcome to another pick from the Maniacal Book Club! Today’s tome is a middle grade fantasy adventure featuring gypsies, curses, companion wildcats and all manner of escapades. I speak of The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, which was released earlier this year and a copy of which I was lucky enough to be sent by Simon & Schuster Australia.  Before we delve into the deep and insightful thoughts of the Club, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Molly Pecksniff wakes one night in the middle of the forest, lured there by a recurring nightmare – the one with the drums and the rattles and the masks. The Dreamsnatcher is waiting. He has already taken her dreams and now he wants her life. Because Moll is more important than she knows… The Oracle Bones foretold that she and Gryff, a wildcat that has always been by her side, are the only ones who can fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic. Suddenly everything is at stake, and Moll is drawn into a world full of secrets, magic and adventure.

 dreamsnatch

Enticing, no? Now let’s hear what the Book Club made of it…

Guru Dave  maniacal book club guru dave

This tale, like a well-polished cubic zirconia, has many facets. There is adventure, certainly, but it is tinged with danger, bordered by loss and regret and dotted with broken trust. There is fear, undoubtedly, but it is cloaked in the colourful livery of bravado, bolstered by the strength of true friendship and lightly dusted with a sprinkling of cat hair.  From Molly’s exploits we can take many lessons, but the most important of these is that home is where the campfire burns the brightest.

Toothless

maniacal book club toothless

No dragons in this book. There’s a creepy guy with a skull mask called Skull though. He’s got a weird power that makes Molly dream things and he tries to lure her away from the camp with his dreamsnatch power. There’s a cool wild cat called Gryff too who does some awesome fighting and protects Molly. This book gets pretty scary in some parts with magic and everyone trying to stop Skull but it’s good scary. I’ve never read a story like this before. Would’ve been better with a dragon.

 

Mad Martha

maniacal book club martha

Dream snatch, mind snatch, night time sounds,

Beat to bring the guardian down

With myths and secrets buried deep

The nasty magic starts to creep

Can guardian Moll defeat the foes

And put to rest the gypsies woes?

Or will Skull’s poisons overcome

And put to rest the plucky one?

Bruce

maniacal book club bruce

I have been amazed and gratified of late to see the incredible originality coming from authors of UK middle grade. There seems to have been a constant stream of books from this group that come across our radar and set off the “Insta-buy!” alarm. Of course it doesn’t help that they all have alluring covers to boot. Really, if I wasn’t lucky enough to receive a small portion of print books from publishers, I would be broke and/or bereft! The Dreamsnatcher is certainly part of this parade of quality storytelling.

Apart from the adventurous storyline and themes of belonging, identity and loyalty that pervade the book, there is also a palpable sense of newness about this tale. Elphinstone has created a really engaging and original world comprising magic, ancient prophesies, sacred roles and age-old rivalries within a setting that invites the imagination to take flight.

I must admit that I had a little difficulty getting into the story. Although the book starts off with some adventurous doings on the part of Molly, as she attempts to steal back her pony from the altogether-creepy Skull, I found the first section of the story slower than I would have liked. In this section Molly is attempting to discover some truths about herself and her place in the camp while the adults try to keep this information from her. Soon after this though, all is revealed and events become more dangerous as Skull increases his efforts to lure Molly to his clearing.  The book steadily picks up the pace from there and Molly, Sid, Gryff and the other members of Moll’s camp attempt to uncover the secrets of the Bone Oracle before it’s too late.

Kids in the target age bracket are really going to enjoy this story, as much for its suspense and pacing as for the magical elements and original world building. And of course for the alluring cover.
The Maniacal Book Club gives this book:

image image image image

 

Four thumbs up!

Until next time,

Bruce (and the gang)

 

 

 

A YA GSQ Review: The Monster Hunter…

3

image

Today’s Good/Sad/Quirky review candidate is an indie title featuring monsters, travellers, orphans, scrumping and more than a passing nod to classic British children’s literature.  Received with thanks from the cheerful folk at Book Guild, I speak of The Monster Hunter by the mysterious and (dare I say?) dashing Kit Cox.  So grab your finest monster-hunting hat and the monster-prodding implement of your choice and let us embark into the heady world of a classic adventure tale.

the monster hunter

After his carefree life on Ceylon is interrupted in horrific fashion when his mother is killed by a monster, Benjamin Jackson Gaul finds himself on a slow boat to an orphanage in the Kentish countryside.  Ben aims to settle in as best he can, given the frosty reception he receives from the other children, and things start looking up after the arrival of the enigmatic and kindly Nanny Belle.  When some of the orphanage children fall sick due to what looks like poisoning, Ben senses that something isn’t right and attempts to investigate what may have befallen the children.  What Ben stumbles across is like nothing he has seen before and he is determined to discover more about the creature that has the children in its thrall.  On a particularly memorable investigative mission, Ben bumps into young traveller Rosalie, and together the two begin to unravel the mystery of monsters in their midst.  With a little encouragement from Nanny Belle, Ben and Rosalie plunge headlong into the dangerous world of monster-hunting.  But will they be up to the challenge when a monster from Ben’s past unexpectedly appears in the most unlikely of places?

image

If you’ve been ailing for a return to traditional childhood adventure tales then you will be very pleased to discover Kit Cox’s work in The Monster Hunter.  We thoroughly enjoyed the real Britishness of the second half of the book, juxtaposed as it was with the earlier chapters set in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) under British colonial rule.  Keen-eyed readers of a certain age will probably also appreciate the significant tip of the hat to E. Nesbit’s classic children’s story Five Children and It that colours the first of Ben’s monster-hunting adventures.  The writing really brought to life an atmosphere of menace during the last third of the story, once Ben and Rosalie discover the second, much more dangerous monster roving the countryside near their homes.  The tale surrounding the appearance of this second monster is well-plotted and significantly raised the creep-factor for me.  There’s a lot here to get one’s teeth into and as this is the first of a series, I’d be interested to see where Cox plans on taking the story.

image

The only thing that puzzled me slightly during this book was the occasional use of modern slang in the characters’ dialogue.  There was an instance in which Rosalie invited Ben to “hang out”, for instance and while these didn’t bother me too much (and I suspect won’t bother young readers at all) it did leave me wondering why they had been included, given that this is historical fantasy fiction.  As I put my mind to the task, it seemed to me that the adult characters appeared to use more traditional turns of phrase, whereas the younger characters were more likely to use modern dialogue.  Perhaps Cox intended it as an accessibility thing for modern young readers, but as I know this can significantly irk some traditionalists I thought I’d mention it.

image

The quirkiest bit of this book was the inclusion of a field guide to the monsters that Ben and Rosalie are hunting, added as a sort of meta-narrative into Ben’s journey.  These “non-fiction” references were great fun and certainly provided a change of pace to add interest to Ben’s stalled investigation.  These sections are, I suspect, taken from or at the very least, mildly linked to Kit Cox’s other work, How to Bag a Jabberwock: A Practical Guide to Monster Hunting by Major Jack Union.  Major Union only makes a short but significant appearance at the end of Ben’s adventures, but I like the way the two books are linked, providing keen readers with the option of a different, yet related reading experience while they wait for the second book in the series.  We shelf-dwellers even think that we might have to bag this title for ourselves – you never know when the shelf may come under attack from hostile monster or monsters unknown.  I have included here an image of the cover in case you too wish to seek it out – for your own protection, of course.

jabberwock

So there you have it – a classic tale of adventure and derring-do, wrapped in an accessible travelling cloak to suit the modern young reader.  While this book will be enjoyed by both genders, this may be a good pick for a pre-All Hallow’s Eve read for the young gentlemen of your acquaintance.

Until next time,

Bruce