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#BookReview: The Wonderling by Mira Bartók #MPBooks

The Wonderling book coverTitle: The Wonderling

Author: Mira Bartók

Illustrator: Mira Bartók

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle grade/ older children’s fiction, fantasy

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Description: Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, run by the evil Miss carbuncle, a cunning villainess, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer.
For the Wonderling, an innocent one-eared “groundling” – a mix of fox and boy – the Home is all he has ever known.  But when unexpected courage leads him to protect a young bird groundling, Trinket, from being bullied, she in return gives him two incredible gifts: a real name – Arthur, like the good king in the old stories – and a best friend.
With the help of an ingenious invention by Trinket, the two friends escape from the Home and embark on an extraordinary quest into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.

With its shimmering language and richly imagined plot, The Wonderling is a spellbinding adventure that will leave readers with a head full of wonder and a heart full of song.

My Review:  This is such a beautiful and magical tale, it’s the perfect story to read no matter how old you are. ‘The Wonderling’ follows the story of Number thirteen, a very shy one eared half-fox half-human boy who lives at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. The orphanage is an unpleasant place, there is no space for the young groundlings (the half-animal half-humans) to have fun, and poor Number Thirteen is so shy and alone that he doesn’t have any friends or even a proper name. But one day he’s forced to do something brave, an act that begins his journey to his destiny.

The book is quite large for a children’s book, at around 460 pages for the hardback, and contains some beautiful old-fashioned looking illustrations throughout. The hardback I have has an outer sleeve covering an old fashioned style dark green book (beautifully bound), and the sleeve has some beautiful images (like the ones found inside) along with some lovely shiny copper embellishments which can’t be seen easily from the above picture. The book is separated into three parts with each part being given a brief description along with some illustrations. There is also a lovely map at the start of the book which all together gives this book such an old-fashioned and beautiful feel.

The story is so easy to get into and I was enjoying it from the very first page. There is a real adventure feel to this as well as a magical Dickensian vibe. The story is set in the Victorian age, given the way the characters look and the technology they have, but it is firmly a fantasy world where groundlings exist. Number Thirteen, or Arthur as he is later known is such a sweet character, very timid but also with a heart of gold. It was so easy to like him straight away and like many magical children’s stories I think kids will warm to his character straight away. As the story progresses chapters occasionally switch to different characters. The whole story is written in the third person but you sometimes find out what is happening elsewhere in the story. This switch is never confusing and is often very interesting as sometimes characters are not just described by their names but in a more outward way, such as one scene talking about what two birds are doing in a house, mentioning them as birds rather than using character names. It gives the book a very magical feel and an almost movie quality to each scene.

An example of the style of illustration found throughout the book (I didn’t want to include any more images as it would spoil the story to see them)

A lot happens in the story and I really don’t want to spoil it by explaining as it’s really a magical adventure that Arthur and his friend go on. But I will say that this book really kept me reading on and on and it sucked me into this magical world that is so beautifully imagined. The Victorian style world where groundlings exist as well as some magical and powerful creatures is just amazing. The pictures really add to this magic too. All of the pages have some beautiful embellishment, even text only pages have some decoration around the page numbers, and when there is an illustration it wraps beautifully around the text. The pictures have a slight brown/sepia tint to them, with a hint of orange being used in pictures of Number Thirteen. The illustrations are really beautiful, you have to see them to see the beauty. They really enhance some of the images you create in your mind when reading the book and I can’t help but feeling a twinge in my heart when I see a picture of the little fox groundling or of his friend who I can’t help think looks like a very cute Kiwi bird.

The ending of the story is satisfying and it feels like the perfect tale to read at Christmas, as the date is significant in the story. I feel like I’ve been on a magical journey after reading this book and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was one day turned into a magical movie as it’s just so wonderful a read. I would recommend this to anyone of any age. Of course it is aimed at older children but I doubt anyone older, who enjoys magical fantasy stories (especially ones featuring animals) would be able to resist enjoying this book!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this magical story?  do you enjoy reading magical/fantasy stories?  What about tales with animals in them?  Please let me know your thoughts I’d love to hear from you 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Caraval by Stephanie Garber #MPBooks

Caraval book cover
UK book cover

Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

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Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review: I’m not sure how to start this review. I absolutely loved this book, once I got into it, but wow the ending was quite a shock and left me a little speechless and just a little bit annoyed.

Caraval has really been a hyped up novel this year and I couldn’t help but want to read it after hearing so much about it. The story follow Scarlett and her sister Tella who live on the small isle of Trisda but their life is marred by their abusive father who enjoys punishing the girls for any wrong-doing. For years Scarlett has been writing to the mysterious Master of Caraval to ask for tickets to the magical show but never hears back until days before her arranged wedding to a man she has never met. When tickets arrive though there is an opportunity to finally escape their abusive father so the girls go to the island where Caraval is taking place. However as soon as they arrive Tella goes missing and Scarlett must take part in the game in order to find her sister.

At the start of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. We’re quickly introduced to Scarlett and Tella along with a scene showing how brutal and twisted their father is, but despite the fast pacing of this novel and the simple descriptions I just didn’t get into this book from the very beginning. The scene didn’t feel as threatening as I thought it should and the general story up until Scarlett reaches Caraval felt almost too fast paced and I didn’t get a feel for the characters until later. However despite my initial thoughts, this story soon drew me into the magic and from then on I was hooked.

The story is told in the third person but follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister with the help, or not, of the man who brought her to the island. The world of Caraval is an interesting and really mesmerising one. It’s like a magical and dark circus show that happens at night and Scarlett quickly becomes involved in the game/performance. The magic in the story and the overall Caraval is like the old fashioned circuses that existed in Victorian times. Just like a magical act, this book is filled with surprises and twists and I’m so happy that I didn’t see any of them coming. I’m very good at spotting twists in stories and often don’t find myself surprised but this book had me hooked as I really didn’t know what was going to happen next and the story kept up this pace of twists and turns right until the end.

The ending of this book is really good. It finishes really well with surprises revealed right until the last pages and it was really satisfying to read, however the epilogue is where I felt annoyed. Something simple happens but it sets up the story for a book two, leaving certain questions in your head and though I’m eager to read book two, when it is released, and there’s nothing wrong with the ending, I’d rather have had a book two without the mini cliff-hanger ending that this epilogue created.

The book has nothing offensive in it though given the dark and twisted nature of some characters I would recommend it for teens and older. Despite the many, many reviews calling this a YA novel it is not. Teens will enjoy this book and some characters are younger but this book is a general fantasy story and not specifically a YA book which usually has more specific appeal.

Caraval is everything it’s hyped up to be and I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a story with lots of twists and magic and for those who enjoy stories with a historic setting. Although the book takes place in a fictional world the timeframe is the past and it just added to the magical feel of this tale.

What do you think?  Do you want to read this book or have you already?  Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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