A Guide to Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children

The Conference of the Birds
Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book Five
Written by Ransom Riggs
Fantasy, Paranormal, Time Travel
Published January 21st 2020
336 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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An instant bestseller, A Map of Days launched readers into the previously unexplored world of American peculiars, one bursting with new questions, new allies, and new adversaries.

Now, with enemies behind him and the unknown ahead, Jacob Portman's story continues as he takes a brave leap forward into The Conference of the Birds, the next instalment of the beloved, bestselling Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series.
Welcome to the world of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. To celebrate the release of The Conference of the Birds, the fifth installment in Ransom Riggs' delightfully peculiar series, I'll guide you through the world of Peculiardom.
Jacob Portman and Peculiardom
Sixteen year old Jacob Portman is Peculiar. Growing up in the small coastal town of Englewood, Jacob was captivated by his grandfather and his fantastical tales of the Peculiar Children. When his grandfather Abraham Portman was slain by a monster, Jacob carries the tales of his grandfather to Wales and the orphanage where his grandfather was raised, the derelict stately house an entrance to Cairnholm, an island of yesteryear and the home to Miss Peregrine and her Peculiar Children.

Jacob is the series protagonist and discovers he inherited the ability of seeing Hollowghasts, the monster who fatally wounded his grandfather. Throughout the series Jacob is introduced to the world of Peculiardom, communities of those with extraordinary abilities hidden in Loops from a particular moment in time. Those bound to a Loop cannot enter the modern world without ageing rapidly. The Peculiar gene is recessive and although is inherited, bypasses a generation. Jacob inheriting his ability from his grandfather.

The Peculiar Children
The Peculiar Children are unequivocally delightful. Emma Bloom is a pyrokinetic. Enoch O'Connor a necromancer. Millard Nullings is invisible. Horace Somnusson experiences prophetic dreams. Olive Elephanta's peculiarity is levitation. Fiona Frauenfeld is a Peculiar horticulturist, enduring selective mutism and traumatic stress disorder among many other children who inhabit the Peculiar world. The children and adolescents are guided under the tutelage of an Ymbryne, women who can manipulate time and are dedicated guardians of the children. The children guided by Miss Peregrine, experience the traumatic the bombing of Cairnholm each day, once the bombing decimating their home occurs, the Loop is reset only to endure the same day over and over again.

In Map of Days and The Conference of the Birds, Noor Pradesh is uncontacted, a young woman who can manipulate light. Miss Peregrine's children are established Peculiar and although they resemble children and adolescents, the Peculiar children have resided within Cairnholm for close to a century, except Jacob and Noor, the latter coveted by the organised syndicates of New York City.

Miss Peregrine and the Ymbrynes
The Ymbrynes are responsible for the care and guidance of Peculiar children, they can manipulate time and metamorphose into feathered friends of the Peculiar, hence the names Miss Peregrine, Miss Avocet, Miss Finch and Miss Rhen. Although common and revered throughout Europe, in The Conference of the Birds we learn that American Ymbrynes are an exceptional incidence, the Ymbrynes pursued and slain by humans, Hollowghasts and Wights, former Hollowghasts who have transformed and the antagonists of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. Miss Peregrine is leader of the Council of Ymbrynes, founding a home for Peculiar children on the small island of Cairnholm, Wales.

Wights disguise themselves as neighbours, relatives and educators, observing Peculiar children alongside the devolved Wights, the Hollowghasts. Caul Bentham is a Wight, sustained by consuming Peculiars and amassing an alliance of extremists and the only Wight known to retain his Peculiar abilities, the brother of Miss Peregrine also transforming into a Peregrine Falcon. Hollowghasts are only visible to Librarian Peculiars such as Jacob Portman and his grandfather.

The Conference of the Birds
Journeying to New York City, Jacob Portman is resolved to retrieve Noor Pradesh, an uncontacted Peculiar forsaken to the New York City syndicate and charlatan Leo Burnham. Discovering that Noor is one of seven Peculiars of an ancient prophecy foreseeing doomsday for Peculiardom.  Noor is imperative and when Jacob is entrusted to delivering Noor to a mysterious location, to an associate of Jacob's grandfather who can shelter the young woman against the Wight onslaught and Leo Burnham's henchmen.

An uprising against the Ymbrynes is fermenting, Peculiars frustrated with their secrecy and totalitarian leadership. The Council of Ymbrynes are aiding in the negotiations of a treaty in New York City as a young Peculiar is captured, the Wights escape the Devil's Acre penitentiary bringing to fruition The Prophecy of the Seven, when the prisons are blown to dust and chaos reigns.

The Conference of the Birds is a magnificent installment of the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series and foreword to a remarkable finale of this endearing and fantastical series. A whimsical narrative of the curious and wonderful. Lyrically beautiful and immersive.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Contains spoilers. See my review for A Curse So Dark and Lonely
A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Cursebreakers Book Two
Written by Brigid Kemmerer
Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
464 Pages
Published January 21st 2020
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen, until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?
Throughout Emberfall, the Kingdom whispers of a mysterious heir to the throne, a legitimate child and magesmith born of the former King. Grey is a steadfast friend, a protector and patriotic resident of the Kingdom, formerly serving as the Commander of the royal guard. Released from his royal oath to protect the Crown Prince of Emberfall, Grey captured the sorceress Lady Lilith and abandoned Emberfall for Washington to save the lives of his friend and the young woman he once captured on the streets of Washington.

Grey is cloaked by the unswept streets of Rillisk under an alias, posing as a stablehand for a local charlatan. Revelations surrounding the mysterious magesmith and heir have inflamed disloyalty within the kingdom, Rhen's reign is being challenged by his constitutes and believing that Grey is aware of the identity of the heir, is determined to return his once friend and guard commander back to Emberfall. To appease her kingdom, Karis Luran must secure a secure trade route through any means necessary. Aware the Washington alliance is a farce, Karis Luran begins preparing her forces to conquer Emberfall.

Pursued by the royal guard, captured and held within the Ironrose castle, Grey discovers a young woman being held as leverage. Lia Mara is the eldest daughter of Karis Luran, a ruthless woman and Queen of Syhl Shallow. Lia Mara is a peacemaker, defying her mother and appealing to Emberfall for unity between the two kingdoms when she is captured and accused of espionage. Lia Mara is quiet young woman, intelligent and compassionate and although with aspirations of becoming Queen, her sister is appointed as heir to the Syhl Shallow throne.

Escaping Ironrose with barely his life, Lia Mara and Grey journey to Syhl Shallow, the first Princess offering refuge and protection on behalf of her mother and kingdom. Ruthless and calculating, Karis Luran believes Grey is the heir and offers to secure his place on the throne in exchange for an alliance, offering her daughter Nolla Verin's hand in marriage. Selflessly, Lia Mara disregards her blossoming attraction to Grey and encourages her sister to pursue the legitimate Emberfall heir. Nolla Verin is an interesting character. The youngest daughter of Karis Luran and heir to the throne, Lia Mara and sister Nolla Verin are contrasting siblings, Nolla Verin is seemingly cutthroat and unforgiving but beneath the impassive facade lies a young girl desperately seeking her the approval of her mother.

Grey is a character who endears readers, his quiet and gentle temperament a contrast to his position as Commander of the royal guard. To ensure the preservation of Rhen reigning over Emberfall, Grey abandoned his country, his friend and the girl who held his affections. On the journey from Ironrose to Syhl Shallow, Grey and Lia Mara's tentative companionship blossomed, sharing the vision of a unified country of affluence and harmony. Grey is enchanted by his travelling companion, Lia Mara's resilience and ferocity surprising the former Commander, himself who endured season after season of the curse that befell his beloved Emberfall. A beautifully tender romance.

Rhen is monstrous. Refusing a mutual treaty with Karis Luran, Rhen imprisons Lia Mara and mercilessly orders violent assaults against those who oppose him. Harper enables his violent behaviour, exonerating him of responsibility. I'm reserving judgement and eagerly awaiting the finale installment of this spectacular series.

Enchanting and atmospheric, A Heart So Fierce and Broken is a beautifully written and compelling installment.

The Dog Runner

The Dog Runner
Written by Bren Macdibble
Middle Grade, Dystopian, Survival
248 Pages
Published February 2019
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that's starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery's mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you've got five big doggos and a dry land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people...
It begun with the fungus that spread across the expansive fields of Australia, fresh produce became a rare commodity as the pasture succumbed to infestation, animals starving, livestock perishing. The government delegated rations were barely enough to survive as friends and neighbours begin to abandon their homes. Organised syndicates roamed the neighbourhood in search for commodities, gold and precious metals traded for meagre allowances.

Siblings Ella and Emery share their small suburban apartment with their father and three canine companions, waiting for their mother to return home from the electricity station. It's been eight months since Ella has seen her mother, several weeks since the electricity blacked out and with no contact from her mother, Ella and Emery's father ventures to the station to find his wife with plans to leave the city with his family.

The city is dangerous, especially for two children and when their father doesn't return home, Ella and Emery decide to travel across the rough terrain to reach Emery's mother's farm. Along with their three dogs, two new recruits and a mushing sled, Ella and Emery will need to navigate the desolate countryside, avoiding armed offenders and learning to survive on the dying land.

The Dog Runner is harrowing and hopeful journey of two children surviving despite an environmental disaster, told from the perspective of a young lady pining for her mother. Ella is such a lovely character, intelligent but within the new world, she continues to see the best in others and in humanity. Besides her half brother Emery, Ella feels safest with her Malamute Maroochy, her loyal canine companion. From their small apartment window, Ella watches her world turning to ruin. The streets are no longer safe as a food shortage begins bringing out the worst in others. To survive, Ella and Emery are planning on sledding to Emery's mother's house, a small mushroom farm that she manages with her parents beyond the city. With communications wiped out and solar power panels being stolen, there's no way of knowing if the farm has been effected or how wide the infestation spread.

In a country reliant upon grain, a red fungus has spread throughout the city and native floral, grasslands have died, animals who normally feed off the land are starving. The narrative encourages discussion surrounding sustainable farming and sustainable living. All it takes is a bacteria or fungus introduced into our environment for our food source to completely overwhelmed. The government guaranteed rations would continue but ultimately left communities to ruin while those desperate for food begun to turn on one another. 

Novels like The Dog Runner are so incredibly important, especially given the environmental state of our world. It introduces middle grade readers to issues such as biodiversity, sustainability, erosion and drought using accessible and engaging language. Although one dog sustains an injury, each dog survives. Bren Macdibble is a phenomenal middle grade author, her debut children's novel How To Bee is a thought provoking narrative of environmental impact and human development, cementing herself as a wonderful author who is conscious of our environment and how education and awareness allows us to make better choices to sustain our planet. Simply beautiful.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance

Contains spoilers for book one Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Legacy of Orïsha Book Two
Written by Tomi Adeyemi
Fantasy, Magic, Diversity
608 Pages
Published December 3rd 2019
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji but also some nobles with magic ancestry.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as strong and magical as they are. When Amari's mother forms an army of royals with newly awakened powers, Zélie fights to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.

But with civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point. She must find a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.
The Kingdom of Orïsha has been decimated in a centuries long conflict between Divĩner communities and the monarchy of Orïsha. Zélie Adebola has empowered her community, her ashê laden blood igniting a revolution against the oppression and genocide of the monarchy who have ravaged her community, her country and Zélie resolves to end their reign.

Zélie is a remarkable character, compassionate and intelligent, although a reluctant revolutionary. In Children of Blood and Bone, Zélie resurrected the ashê of the Divĩners. Burners, Tiders and Reapers no longer defenceless against the monarchy. In Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Zélie is a warrior seeking retribution and although fiercely shielding her community, she's vulnerable and grieves for the life that has been taken from her. Zélie's distress is palpable, she's survived the genocide of her community, her friends and family and now Zélie has become the Soldier of Death, a symbol of resilience among the Orïshan. Amari Olúborí is heir to the Orïshan throne and although Zélie harbours an intense animosity towards the monarchy, she advocates for Amari's ascension..

Zélie and Amari are grieving. Amari for the loss of her father and Brother, Inan the Crown Prince. Isolated and resented for her privileged heritage, Amari is determined to represent all Orïshans and bring to fruition her brother's legacy. Rebels have infiltrated the royal palatial home and Queen Nehanda is gathering a legion of Tîtáns, the sacred ritual igniting nobility abilities.

In Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Winders, Connectors, Burners, Grounders, Lighters and Healers have ignited to join the resistance, cooperating as the Lyika rebellion. The Lyika are striving to eradicate the monarchy and the disconnection of caste divisions before the nation is ravaged by conflict. Beneath the conflict both Zélie and Amari feel the tension and ache of a fractured friendship and although both young women have developed into respective leaders, they've lost the capacity to communicate with one another.

Zélie's brother Tzain is a wonderfully gentle character and although he's enamoured by Amari, is unwavering in support of his sister. Roën is as bewildering as he is delightful and a significant character in Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Although he seemingly cares for Zélie, Roën's allegiance still remains with his mercenary crewmen. Throughout the narrative, we're introduced to the Lyika rebellion, characters in which Zélie forms an attachment. Zélie adopts a motivational and motherly role towards the younger, inexperienced members of the Lyika, creating tenderhearted and gentle relationships with those she pledges to protect.

The kingdom of Orïsha ignites discussion of segregation, displacement, discrimination, racism and genocide, parallel to our own world. Nobility and the monarch are affluent, swathed within the city of Lagos. Communities blessed by the Sky Mother are historically oppressed and persecuted by the Orïshan monarchy, living within impoverished communities. The Raid decimated families, many still enduring intergenerational trauma.

The mysticism and mythology of the Legacy of Orïsha series is breathtaking. Transcendent and exhilarating, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is ethereal and beautifully written. 
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