Book Review: Quest, by A. J. Ponder

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_questIt has been a few years now since I felt the indulgent pleasure of reading bedtime stories to my children, having a nightly excuse to become a child again myself, immersed in a world different from that of GrownUp. Escapism, fairy tales, fantasy, magic, a sort of parallel reality to adulting, where all things are seen from a different perspective.

So when I chose this little gem to review, I was secretly wanting to be taken back to the days of magic, the mischief that magicians and sorcerers would get up to, princesses and princes, dragons, silly story lines. And this sure delivered. Reminiscent of The Princess Bride.

In this action packed story Princess Sylvalla does not want to be a princess. She wants to be a hero, to slay dragons, to wield a sword, to break out. And one day she does – she escapes the castle, setting in motion a ‘princess hunt’ which attracts all sorts of dodgy characters, opportunists, wizards, con men, runaways. It is actually hilarious. Some of them even join Sylvalla in her posse to hunt dragons – Jonathon the con man chasing his stolen treasure; his 150 year old father who is also a wizard; Dirk the world’s most deadly swordsman; and Francis, the horse groomer who sees a chance to escape his lowly existence.

The story line is pretty crazy, and the characters are all over the place, but the writing is magnificent. This book is made for reading aloud, it fair rollicks along, a huge vocabulary with marvellous character drawings, funny dialogue and conversations. The best parts though, to encourage fully engaged adult interaction with child, are the footnotes the author has made which are really for adult eyes only. Funny, wicked and sometimes a bit naughty. There is no happy living after in this story either! No handsome prince, no evil witch. So the traditional fairy tale is turned on its head, and I hope to see more of Syvalla’s adventures, because she is well set up to take on more baddies.

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

Quest (#1 of the Sylvalla Chronicles)
by A. J. Ponder
Published by Phantom Feather Press
ISBN 9780473451073



Book Review: Ezaara, by Eileen Mueller

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_ezaara.jpgEzaara lives a relatively peaceful life in Lush Valley, learning swordcraft with her brother and collecting herbs for her mother. But things change when the dragon appears, and carries her away into a life she has only ever dreamed of. It is a life of danger and excitement, of intrigue and tangled politics, and Ezaara must prove her worth not only to the dragon council, but also to herself.

Written in an eloquent and gripping style, Ezaara intrigued me from the start, but it was only when our, relatively naive, heroine was thrust into the midst of conspiracy and corruption that it really clutched me tight, and kept me reading far too late into the night! Along with her relatively rural upbringing, Ezaara has a strong heart and fiery determination, but will she prove a worthy companion for the queen of the dragons? Her wits and skills – and also her emotions – will be tested to their limits, carrying the reader along, on an emotional rollercoaster ride of their own!

For the young adult market – and anyone who has ever wanted to befriend a dragon – Ezaara is a spell-binding tale of friendship, courage and determination.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

by Eileen Mueller
Published by Phantom Feather Press
ISBN 9780995115200

Book Review: The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller and A. J. Ponder

Available in selected bookstores nationwide.

cv_the_best_of_twisty_christmas_TalesThis delightful collection will certainly awaken your child within and spark your Christmas spirit. There are around 30 stories from an eclectic array of authors: familiar names like Joy Cowley and David Hill, along with a number of rising talents. The stories are charming little bites, perfect for a younger reader, or to read aloud with your family. Christmas is truly brought to life. Stories are based in the cold clutches of Antarctica, in places out in space, and in various fantastical realms, but the New Zealand flavour is alive and well in these tales.

In “Cole’s Christmas Spirit,” by Shelley Chappell, a young English boy is shown the joy of a summery Christmas. Within A.J. Ponders “Dear Santa”, a homeless boy sends letters to Santa, his hopeful innocence simple, yet heart-breaking and bittersweet. We meet “Bandit” in Lorraine Orman’s tale about a mischievous cat, whose thievery turns him into an unlikely saviour. David Freer’s “How to Train Your Princess” is cheeky and smart. And if you like dragons, there are many in Eileen Mueller’s “Rumbled”. Joy Cowley lends a kiwi edge to the classic Nativity story in this reprinted version of her picture book “A Kiwi Christmas”.

Other favourites include, “Bells” by Lee Murray, an amusing tale in which the police get involved. And in “Santa’s Sack”, Simon Fogarty channels the spirit of Roald Dahl with a wickedly twisty tale about a bratty sister getting her comeuppance.

Some of the stories are short and sweet, others twisted and fun. Some will make you laugh out loud, others give you a warm and fuzzy fluttering feeling. It all comes packaged up in a neat little paperback, with a colourful and quirky-fun cover, interspersed with wonderful illustrations. Not only that, but by purchasing a copy, you are helping support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand, and discovering some rising new talents.

Overall, an awesome Christmas gift for the child in your life.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales
edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller, and A.J. Ponder
Published by Phantom Feather Press
ISBN  9780994115508