Book Review: 8 Rivers of Shadow, by Leo Hunt

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_eight_rivers_of_shadowThis is the second book in a paranormal trilogy about teenager Luke Manchette and his dealings with his father’s secret ghostly life.

Luke lives in modern day UK in a small, nondescript village. He goes to the local high school, has a messy bedroom and, except for the fact that he can see ghosts, he’s generally a normal teenager. However, his girlfriend Elza is kind of a witch and he met the Devil last Halloween. It is this casual normality sitting alongside a world of ghosts and spooky magic that makes this story work so brilliantly.

The story picks up Luke’s tale almost a year after he thought all that supernatural stuff had finished for good. Luke just wants to fit in with his old friends again, but knows the strange things that have happened makes that impossible: “I’m a freak now and everyone knows it. I’m a freak with a freak girlfriend, and I have a freak mum and a dead freak dad and a freak dog and I live in the Freak House at Number One, Freak Street.”

One good thing to come out of it all is his girlfriend. Elza has never fitted in and is comfortable being herself, she is strong and doesn’t care to try to be something she isn’t. Elza and Luke are trying to settle into a new school year when the mysterious Ash Smith arrives, setting all the weird things in motion again. Once again Luke finds himself talking to ghosts, digging up the strange and powerful Book of 8 and pitting himself against the spirit world. This time though, the stakes are higher – literally life or death. Luke is going to have to do what no other necromancer has ever done, or it’s all over.

Author Leo Hunt has captured the voice of his teenaged characters to a tee; perhaps because he was one when he penned the first book 13 Days of Midnight, while in his first year of university. He has created likeable, genuine characters who work well together, and the cast of varied ghosts are just as believable, all with their own personalities. Everything from the ghosts, to the spells, to the daring plan to traverse the Otherside makes perfect sense, and none of it is graphic or nasty.

As a stand-alone book, 8 Rivers of Shadow works well, there is just enough information to fill you in on what has happened previously, and the story is entertaining and well-crafted, with plenty of moments delivered with just the right touch of humour. In saying that, you will be missing out if you don’t read the first book and I for one, am eagerly awaiting the release of the final instalment.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

8 Rivers of Shadow
by Leo Hunt
Orchard Books
ISBN: 9781408337486

Book Review: The Lion Inside, by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_lion_insideThe cover alone made me want to take this book home for my children. The illustrations are wonderful, coloured in a kind of throwback 70s muted tone that is coming back in for sophisticated picture books in particular.

Poor little mouse can’t make himself heard in the jungle – he’s constantly being stepped on and ignored, and he is getting fed up. Lion is the tough guy of the jungle, posturing and posing, picking up hippos and generally being alpha male, with a crowd of admirers jostling to see him. Mouse sees him doing his poses and roars and thinks, well here’s how I’m going to be seen. I’m going to go and see what lion can teach me.

So he made himself brave
and he thought like a WINNER.
He set off for the top…
hoping not to be dinner.
It felt like the scariest thing
he could do…
But if you want things to change,
you first have to change You.

The book is written in a patter rhythm, reminiscent of Roadworks by Sally Sutton, but without the whooshes and beeps; with language that is similar to Dr Seuss, with plenty of coinage and a lot of quirky fun. I would love to see a short film made of this book; the characters are both excellent and the jungle setting is brilliantly spooky as night falls.

The only qualm I have with this book is that it slightly overdoes its moral message. As it happens, we need this message in our house at the moment, but it does feel a little spoon-fed. The moralising line is a fine line that children’s book must take care to stay on the right side of, because forcing a message is the easiest way to turn a kid off a book.

This book would make a great addition to any child’s library – the jungle animals, silly sense of fun, and incredible illustrations make sure of it. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Lion Inside
by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field
Published by Orchard Books
ISBN 9781408331606

Book Review: This Raging Light, by Estelle Laure

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_this_raging_lightWhen Lucille Bennett’s mother leaves town to have ‘a break from everything’, Lucille and her sister Wren are left to fend for themselves. This is easier said than done – there are bills to pay, suspicious neighbours to avoid and grades to keep up at school.

Lucille gets a job at a Mexican restaurant run by the eccentric Fred, and her best friend Eden is happy to help take care of Wren. Even so, Lucille’s problems are piling up as fast as the lies she is forced to tell. People are starting to talk, and the Bennetts’ secrets are in danger of being discovered. Just when it seems things couldn’t get more complicated, Lucille finds herself falling in love with her best friend’s brother Digby. Could there be worse timing for something so wonderful to happen?

This book quickly proved itself to be much for than just another YA romance. This Raging Light is a story centred on themes of family and friendship, and I actually think it would have been just as good without the romance. Lucille’s relationships with her sister and her best friend are much more important to the story than her love for Digby.

I was impressed by how realistic Lucille’s character is; her story is very well-written. She’s a strong, hard-working protagonist who is the main force pushing the story forward – you’d be surprised how often the main characters of young adult literature aren’t like this. No helpless Bella Swan characters to be found in this book. I was also surprised by how maturely Lucille dealt with the situations both of her parents were in. Forgiveness is another theme that you don’t see enough of in young adult novels.

I recommend This Raging Light to any teen readers who are looking for a book that they will struggle to put down; the vivid characters are what make this one special. They’ll capture your attention and have you rooting for them from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

This Raging Light
by Estelle Laure
Published by Orchard Books
ISBN 9781408340271