Mirage Book One
Written by Somaiya Daud
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
320 Pages
Published August 28th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken.

But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.

I was my mother's daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen year old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation and of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she too will have adventures and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects, she is kidnapped and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double to appear in public, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty and her time with the princess’ fiancĂ©, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear and if Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection... Because one wrong move could lead to her death.
Imprisoned and held within her gilded cage, Amani was taken captive by imperial droids moments after her Majority ceremony, a milestone celebration of maturity. Amani is a character of quiet determination, intelligent and spiritual, enshrined to Massinia. A theological Prophetess that has become the symbolism of a rebellion. Captured from her home among the stars, Amani is enslaved upon the Vathek occupied Andala. Amani and the Andalaan Vathek Princess Maram are indistinguishable, Amani is deprived of her identity, tortured, assaulted, her Indigenous symbolism removed and instructed to simulate as surrogate for the reclusive Princess Maram.

The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.

Maram is young woman of Indigenous and Alien heritage, forsaken and displaced by the Vathek and Andalaan communities. Maram is isolated from royal courtesans and betrothed for political alliance, her father is apathetic towards his young daughter and heir. As the rebellion opposing the Vathek colonisation intensifies, Maram remains sheltered within her palatial home, her inhumanity ensuing Amani remains compliant.

You do not kneel or bend, I told myself. To anyone. You continue.

Amani and Maram establish a tentative friendship, Maram remorseful of her treatment of Amani on arrival and confiding in the young woman she is holding captive. Posing as Maram, Amani deceives the royal consort and betrothed Idris. Idris is perceptive and determines Amani as an impostor as his attraction to Amani jeopardising both their lives. The romance is delicate and compassionate, allowing Amani to disengage the masquerade of captivity.

Mirage centralises on oppression, erasure and slavery. Although contrasting characters and circumstances, the imprisonment of a young woman who is tortured and a Princess within her gilded cage, both young woman are tormented by the burden of expectation. It scrutinises colonisation as the Vathek conquered the Mizaal Galaxy, poisoning the atmosphere of Vaxor and colonising Andala, enslaving the Indigenous population and depriving the Andalaans of their ethnology and spirituality. Rebellion arises as rebels strategise against their oppressors, Amani becoming embroiled in the uprising.

The narration infused with delicate female and Indigenous empowerment throughout the instability of dissent and cultural reclamation, comparable to the current political climate and resonating with Indigenous readers. Amani represents a quiet endurance and resilience against her environment, a reiteration of nevertheless, she persisted. Somaiya Daud has composed an exquisitely imagined narrative, enchanting and affluent. A remarkable debut.

A Curse of Ash and Embers

A Curse of Ash and Embers
Tales of the Blackbone Witches Book One
Written by Jo Spurrier
Paranormal, Witches, #LoveOZYA
368 Pages
Published September 24th 2018
Thanks to Harper Collins Australia
Add to Goodreads
A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic. Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it's Elodie's job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she'd find herself working for a witch; and her acid tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha's final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie's help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it's still better than going back home.
Elodie Foster is forsaken. Isolated to the family cottage, Elodie maintains the small, ramshackle homestead, illiterate and denied an education. Elodie is verbally and emotionally abused by her stepfather, her mother remains passively apathetic, accusing her daughter of antagonism and initiating conflict. A mysterious correspondence arrives providing salvation, an opportunity for employment in the small pastoral community of Lilsfield, migrating to the infamous Black Oak Cottage, escorted by a local farmer, his daughter and a destitute magician on her journey.

All The Women Who Are Independent... Throw Your Hands Up At Me
Elodie is an intelligent young woman, despite denied an education. As a young lady, her biological father passed away, survived by his daughter and destitute young widow. Elodie is isolated from her community and although is forsaken by her abusive stepfather, reluctantly accepts the position of servitude. An ancient sorceress befelled by her young apprentice, monstrous creations arisen from the land and a small community encompassed in folklore.

Returning to the small ramshackle cottage, Aleida Blackbone tenaciously liberated the Lilsfield community from the subordination of Gyssha, a malevolent crone pleasured by consuming the small town. Fiercely independent, the confrontation has diminished the once apprentice to an ailing woman needing assistance to endure the forthcoming catastrophe. The apparitional cavalrymen.

Elodie and Aleida are contrasting characters. Aleida is assured, confident and perceptive. An apprentice to Gyssha as a young woman, exploiting her humanity to ensure her compliance. Elodie and Aleida have experienced a callous manipulation, remarkably similar as they find solace within their tentative companionship.

I Don't Want No Scrubs
Although Elodie is enchanted by local huntsman Kian, neither Elodie or Aleida are interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. On occasion entrusting neighbour Attwater for assistance. Aleida is independent, inspiring Elodie to discover her own bravery and heroism, becoming Aleida's caregiver during her recovery. A Curse of Ash and Embers reiterates that female characters are individuals and independent, unreliant on male characters or masculinity to further their own narrative.

On her journey, Elodie encounters a young magician. Although charming and eccentric, he abandons his travelling companions rather peculiarly, perplexing why his character was introduced within the narrative.

Legends And Folklore
The Lilsfield folklore is captivating. The monstrous automatons created from the fertile earth, Laurel the dryad and her companion Attwater, the apparitional warlocks and the Blackbone legacy. The atmospheric Black Oak Cottage creates a foreboding whimsicality, enchanting and captivating throughout the narrative of sixteen year old Elodie.
We are the eye of the storm. We are the darkness behind the stars. We are the glare of the sun, and nothing touches us unless we let it.

A Curse of Ash and Embers is a charismatic narrative of enchantment and folklore, of independent women and shared experiences. Wonderfully characterised, beautifully illustrated and emphatically captivating.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

See my review for book one in the Nevermoor series here
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow
Nevermoor Book Two
Written by Jessica Townsend
Middle Grade, Fantasy, #LoveOZMG
467 Pages
Published October 30th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor...

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She's hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan's unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?

Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion...
Miss Morrigan Crow, calamitous young lady of the Wintersea Republic is now preparing to become an esteemed scholar of the Wundrous Society, accompanying eight fellow students including the marvellous Hawthorne. Although compelled to confidentiality considering the dastardly mayhem instigated by Wundersmith Ezra Squall, Morrigan's Wundersmith ability is discovered and unscrupulously, an unknown antagonist is conspiring towards the extraordinary children with a bizarre series of anonymous notes and peculiar stipulations.

Fragments throughout the Wundrous Society community have vanished, scholars, colleagues and acquaintances. Instinctively Miss Morrigan Crow is a suspect as an accused nefarious Wundersmith but with the steadfast assistance of the nonchalant Hawthorne, Jupiter North, Jack and an unlikely collaborator, Morrigan is determined to preserve the Wundrous Society, Nevermoor and substantiate that a Wundersmith is fantastically wundrous.

Our Magnificent Morrigan!
Morrigan Crow is a intelligent and practical young woman. Forsaking the calamity and misadventure of the Wintersea Republic, Morrigan is now a resident of Nevermoor, liberated by Jupiter North to compete in the Wondrous Society tournament. As a Wundersmith, Morrigan attends a specialised program consisting of the history of the Wundersmith and their heinous atrocities. 

Throughout the narration, Morrigan discovers that beneath the fantastical facade of Nevermoor, wickedness is awakening. Jupiter North is investigating an illegal marketplace in correlation to the community members. His extended absences further isolating Morrigan as she adjusts to her new environment. Morrigan is challenged by prejudice and at a disadvantage, increasingly isolated from her fellow scholars and Society facility, fearing the Wundersmith notoriety. Her Society companions are disciplined within their individual abilities however, Morrigan is secluded and denied an education despite Jupiter protesting for equality. The demeanour of Wundersmith Ezra Squall reflects on Morrigan and although only twelve years of age, she is held responsible for the actions of her predecessor. Outlandish! 

The Merry Band Of Sidekicks
The grand Hotel Deucalion is resident to a fictionally diverse and eclectic community and although Jupiter is her guardian, Morrigan relies upon the Deucalion residents for guidance and perspective. Fenestra the talking Magnificat, Jack the nephew of Jupiter who returns from boarding school on weekends, the operatic singer and the vampire dwarf with a penchant for lavish carousing. 

Hawthorne Swift is a tremendous character, friend and entourage for Morrigan. His solidarity is unconditional and although his character appears humorous and sprightly, he fiercely defends his friend against Morrigan naysayers. Former antagonist Cadance Blackburn is delightfully surprising. Although adversaries, Cadance recognises the importance of Morrigan and her abilities as they cooperate to solve the mystery of the illegal marketplace.

Step Boldly
The atmospheric enchantment of Nevermoor is an experience. The fantastical Brolly Rail as it bustles throughout the expansive metropolis, the intricate and deceptive thoroughfares and animated diorama of Nevermoor and the residents. Nevermoor is fantastically imagined and beautifully illustrated. Although the world is intricate and voluminous, it's encompassed by a wonderful intimacy and warmth.

Nevermoor transcends children's literature, captivating and enchanting audiences. Categorically breathtaking.
© Diva Booknerd. Design by Fearne.