Junior Fiction Shorts #3: Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!, and Barking Mad

Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!
by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

cv_dragon_knight_barbaraiansThis is the sixth and final book in this frequently hilarious series about Merek, a dragon who wants to be a knight, so spends his days in boy-form, attending knight school with his best friend Brin at Lord Crumble’s Castle. Together, Merek and Brin fight bullies, regularly prove that smart beats big, and discover together that being a knight isn’t quite all it is cracked up to be.

In this episode of their story, the Barbarians are at the gate. But when Merek and Brin discover they have actually breached the castle walls, and are looting treasure unexpectedly carefully, they follow them out of the castle. When they are discovered, things go from bad to worse, until help comes from an unexpected quarter. Each of the Dragon Knight stories have occasionally factual inserts, and fantastic illustrations from Donovan Bixley. I recommend the full series as a must-read for anyone who likes the Horrible Histories, or the tales of King Arthur.

Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!
by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433972

Barking Mad
by Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis

cv_barking_madIf you have the kind of kid that cracks up at absurdities, have I got a book for you! Granddad is behaving like a dog, so he’s being taken to hospital. Fingers doesn’t believe it at first – Granddad’s a tough old inventor who has been known to sew a gash in his leg up with needle & thread rather than go to the hospital for any reason – but when he and his sister get to his house and see Granddad being carted away, he knows something is definitely the matter. Fingers and his sister Sally are baffled, until they realise Granddad’s dog DaVinci is acting a little more sensible than usual.

So while Granddad gets committed for licking the postman and growling like a dog, Fingers and Sally are trying to put the world to rights. A trip to the dog pound for DaVinci doesn’t help matters any, and by the end of the book your head is spinning with how many identity-swaps there has been. This is a well-paced, ably-written book, with the round-about storylines nonetheless staying within their own rules & making for a satisfying read. Paul Beavis’ brilliant illustrations add to the fun. For ages 7-12.

Barking Mad
by Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433743

All reviews written by Sarah Forster
This is the third in a series of reviews of Junior Fiction, here are number one, and number two, for your reading pleasure.

Book Review: Ruined, by Amy Tintera

cv_ruinedAmy Tintera places her reader right bang in the middle of the action in her intense, adventure fantasy novel Ruined.

Ruined tells the story of Emelina Flores’ quest for revenge. Once a princess of Ruina, Em’s whole world was turned upside down when Lera invaded her country, taking away her everything. She had parents, but now they are both slaughtered, she had a home, but now it has been burnt to the ground, and she had a sister, but she has been locked up in an enemy kingdom. Hunted as one of Ruina, now all Emelina has is her thirst for revenge.

Armed with a fierce determination to make the Lera King pay, Em sneaks into her enemy’s kingdom, posing as his son’s betrothed. Possessing no magic as a useless Ruined? It won’t matter to Em as she uses her sword skills and intelligence to complete her mission, that is, if her rage-filled heart can withstand the tentative touch of an enemy prince.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy novels such as Throne of Glass, The Winner’s Curse and Cruel Beauty. Although the plot sounds a bit cliché with the whole main character playing a role in order to infiltrate the enemy but falling in love with the enemy part, Ruined is by no means boring. In fact, it has an action-filled plotline and a story that takes place over the course of only a few days. Also, it gets into the nitty-gritty very quickly. During the first chapter, I was immediately shocked into attention. Amy Tintera introduces us to Ruined’s brutal world with a cold-blooded murder of Princess Mary by none other than the protagonist of the tale herself. Yet despite the ruthless attitude of many of the characters, including Em, we find ourselves unable to condemn them because of the merciless world they live in. Also, it sometimes adds to our curiosity and the intrigue of the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed this book with its intense action and interesting romance as two people from totally contrasting situations come together: Em with her dark world, and Cas with his mostly worry-free one. However, if I had to criticise the novel, I would say that events developed a little too quickly since Em and Cas go from not feeling anything for each other at all to suddenly being quite in love. Also, the characters could have been developed more so we grow a stronger attachment to them. But as a whole, a wickedly good start to an awesome trilogy. Looking forward to finding out what becomes of Em and Cas in the next instalment.

Reviewed by Elinor Wang
A & U Reading Ambassador

Ruined
by Amy Tintera
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760290641