Profile for Chrestomanci > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Chrestomanci
Top Reviewer Ranking: 146,397
Helpful Votes: 1725

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Chrestomanci (UK)
(VINE VOICE)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
pixel
Blood Red Horse
Blood Red Horse
by K M Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.32

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Tale of a Crusader's War Horse, 30 Aug 2004
This review is from: Blood Red Horse (Paperback)
I had been looking forward to this book - despite reading about it in one of the most scathing newspaper reviews I've ever read. I'm glad that I did read it, because I have come to the conclusion that the reviewer was most unfair. It suggested that this book was written as some kind of comment on parallel wars being fought in recent times. Knowing the timescales involved in writing and publishing, I knew this was impossible - but I was curious to see what kind of slant the author had put on the history of the Crusades. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the view presented was impartial and balanced. We learn about this historical event from both sides: from King Richard and his men as well as the Sultan and his Saracen army.
The story is well written and has a definite sense of period - yet without resorting to 'olde worlde' dialogue that would swiftly weary the reader. The three main characters: Will, Gavin and Ellie, are well drawn and have real depth. The reader follows their growth from children to young adults. As they age it becomes ever clearer that there is a romantic triangle of sorts here - Ellie is clearly attached to Will, yet must marry Gavin the oldest. How their emotional stories progress (whilst together and far apart) really holds the story together.
Despite its merits, I felt the story had a few flaws that kept it from being a truly perfect children's novel. It seemed to have a very slow start; on a number of occasions whilst reading the first few chapters I was half-tempted to abandon the book, as it seemed rather pedestrian and dull. I also found the earlier segments about the Sultan and his son distracted me from the story of the three main protagonists, and felt tempted to skip them. I pressed on, however, and gradually my affection for the story and characters grew.
Bizarrely, I found the least well-rounded and convincing character to be the 'Blood Red Horse' himself. I never truly understood what was so very special about 'Hosanna' that captivated everyone who came into contact with him. Apart from his attractive appearance, ability to move well, and a certain steadfastness - I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. I read continually about how everyone utterly adored him (to the rather uncomfortable point of idolization), including the entire Hartslove estate, King Richard, and the Sultan's son. Yet despite this, I couldn't see one single heroic deed or action that prompted their devotion - and as such, I never really bonded with the horse or cared enough about it, in the way that I did about Will, Gavin and Ellie. True, at one point he stubbornly refuses to join in with a mass slaughter - but this subtle distinction of what was honorable seemed unconvincing, especially when he played an active role in many other bloody scenes.
When first told of this story, I had understood that it was a story about the crusades as told from a horse's point of view - so I kind of expected a historical 'Black Beauty.' Sadly, this was not the case. For me, the central character of Hosanna has practically none of the emotional impact of Black Beauty, because we never really get to know him, his thoughts, feelings, etc. This is especially unsettling when he seems to switch his allegiance midway and focus his affections on the Sultan's son, with little evidence of missing his previous owner. This may be how a 'real' horse would behave perhaps, but for me, this central character just didn't work in the way he should. Maybe if we had 'heard' from Hosanna (got inside his head), this story might have had a real emotional impact and might have become a true classic instead of a rather standard historical adventure with a horse that everyone obsesses over thrown in for good measure. Perhaps it all works so much better for lovers of all things equine - but the gruesome deaths of so many of the other horses (though historically accurate), might be distressing.
A sterling debut novel - but it could have been so much more!


Tom's Midnight Garden (Oxford Children's Modern Classics)
Tom's Midnight Garden (Oxford Children's Modern Classics)
by Philippa Pearce
Edition: Paperback

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic that has stood the Test of Time!, 30 Aug 2004
When Tom's brother becomes ill, Tom is sent away to stay with his aunt and Uncle. To his great dismay, he finds that they live in a block of flats without a garden. Then, one night he cannot sleep, and thinks he hears the old grandfather clock in the entrance hall strike thirteen. He creeps down to check - but when he reaches the hall, he finds that there is a huge and beautiful garden behind the flats that he wasn't told about. But there is something peculiar about it; for a start, the people he sees there are all dressed in Victorian costume - and no-one, except for a little girl called Hattie, seems to be able to see him.
Are Hattie and the others all ghosts? Or is Tom a ghost himself, visiting a real world? Or is he time-travelling back through time when the clock strikes thirteen? Tom becomes obsessed with his midnight garden, wanting to spend more and more time in it - but with every visit Hattie grows a little older. Time is running out.
An intriguing tale; mysterious, atmospheric - and enchantingly written. The ending is genuinely moving. The modern-day segments of the story seem a little dated now, but in a time-slip story this really doesn't matter. A classic book that has stood the test of time - a true childhood favourite.


Time Stops for No Mouse
Time Stops for No Mouse
by Michael Hoeye
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Bedtime Storybook, 23 Aug 2004
This is the first Hermux Tantamoq adventure - an intriguing little tale about a watchmaker mouse. Hermux is shy and pedantic, and longs for an adventure. When the dashing aviatrix Ms Perflinger leaves her travel watch to be repaired, Hermux finds himself thrown into more adventures than he could possibly have imagined.
All of the characters in this book are mice - but not living beneath the floorboards in human's houses. No, they inhabit their own beautifully detailed and believable mouse world. The characterization is delightful - and although aimed at young readers, will appeal to many an older reader with a taste for whimsy and anthropomorphized stories. The plot is a kind of 'whodunit' - and requires the reader paying close attention if they are to solve all the clues.
The book is divided into lots and lots of mini-chapters - some no longer than a page or two in length. This makes it the ideal bedtime storybook for reading aloud to little sleepyheads!


Stuart Little
Stuart Little
by E. B. White
Edition: Turtleback

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stuart - Now sixty and showing his age!, 23 Aug 2004
This review is from: Stuart Little (Turtleback)
It is probably fair to say that most young readers' first experience of 'Stuart Little' will be through the two films based loosely on this book. As such, they might expect a lively, funny, fast-paced plot with plenty of action and humor. However, 'Stuart Little' was first published in 1945, and styles of humor and standards of children's books have certainly altered over the years.

Stuart was created by E B White, co-author of that well-known writer's bible 'Strunk & White's Elements of Style' - so readers might rightly expect a flawlessly written tale. Perhaps it was back in 1945. However, good punctuation and grammar are all very well - but pacing and plot are basic requirements too. What you do get, by today's standards, is something flawlessly dull. The humor is wry, gentle, whimsical, and in its way quite charming, but to be perfectly honest, if it were offered to a publisher today, it would most likely be returned with a polite note of rejection.

Many in the USA view this as something of a classic, the American equivalent of 'Winnie the Pooh' - but this is wishful thinking. Whereas 'Pooh' continues to enchant countless new readers, Stuart is perhaps best sticking to his cinematic outings for the young. E B White also wrote Charlotte's web, though this has weathered the passing of time considerably better.

No doubt many older American readers who have fond childhood memories of this book will strongly disagree, but if you are planning on buying this book for a young UK reader, then you may fair better with something more contemporary. If you like tales about mice - why not check out 'Time Stops for No Mouse,' by Michael Hoeye - the first in the Hermux Tantamoq adventures


The Spook's Apprentice No. 1
The Spook's Apprentice No. 1
by Joseph Delaney
Edition: Hardcover

76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not to be Read After Dark, 9 Aug 2004
The Spook's Apprentice is a children's horror novel set in the time of the Pendle Witches. The eponymous Spook is a man whose job it is to protect the local villagers from witches, boggarts and all other evils, yet despite his invaluable service, he is shunned by all. After the death of his last apprentice, the Spook enrolls young Thomas Ward, who, being the seventh son of a seventh son is qualified for the position. However, he soon discovers that this is no mere accident of birth.
Thomas is left the entire night in a haunted house as a kind of initiation into his new job. The twist in this scene is perhaps a little too obvious. Thomas progresses with his lessons - but before long, the Spook is called away on an urgent matter in Pendle, and rather recklessly leaves his inexperienced young apprentice behind. During his absence, Thomas makes a rash promise to Alice (a girl with pointy shoes), and is tricked into releasing Old Mother Malkin, who was buried alive as punishment for killing the villagers' children and drinking their blood.
Once she is free, Thomas's problems really begin - and it seems that the only person he can turn to for help is the one who got him in this mess ... Alice. Alice is perhaps the most interesting character in the book. The reader is never certain whether she is to be trusted or not. Is she as well-intentioned as she claims, acting under duress - or is she an evil scheming trickster out to lure Thomas to the same bloodthirsty fate as the previous apprentice?
'Not to be read after dark,' it says on the back cover. Perhaps it's not quite as scary as the publishers would have you believe - but it's still sufficiently chilling for most young readers. Certainly not suitable for those under 8 or 9, or those prone to nightmares, as some of the imagery is quite intense: (ghosts of dying soldiers hung on a tree - a witch who wants to drink a new born baby's blood - a boy who has his fingers cut/chewed off by a boggart, and many others). However, if you're 13 or older and enjoy something on the gruesome side, this is an adventurous tale with many a cliff-hanger.
It's somewhat difficult to settle on a star rating for this book. To be honest, this kind of dark horror is not to my tastes; I prefer my fantasy reading material to be a little more light-hearted - preferably with a few laughs. However, putting that aside, I award 4 stars for the quality of writing. This is a well-written novel, briskly paced and with some good characterization. For those who live in Lancashire, the local history of the Pendle Witches may be of particular interest - but this book may well appeal to any teen with morbid or gothic tastes.


The Ironwood Tree (Spiderwick Chronicle)
The Ironwood Tree (Spiderwick Chronicle)
by Holly Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fourth Book in the Spiderwick Series, 9 Aug 2004
'The Ironwood Tree,' is the fourth book in the Spiderwick Chronicles - continuing from where Book 3 -' Lucinda's Secret' left off - and is another fabulous little 7 chaptered book brimful of sumptuous illustrations.
The Grace children face their greatest challenge yet. During a fencing match, while their 13 year-old sister is fighting a duel, 9 year-old twins, Jared and Simon spot someone rummaging through her sports bag. Jared goes to investigate - but finds something he never expected - a shape-shifter impersonating him, turning the Grace twins into triplets! As a result, he is expelled from school - but that's the least of his worries - while he and Simon are distracted, Mallory is kidnapped. A trail of mysterious clues lead them to an old Quarry inhabited by dwarves. Here they find the incredible Ironwood Tree - and to their horror discover their sister asleep, locked inside a glass coffin. Somehow they have to rescue her, escape the dwarves, their mechanical dogs and a giant ogre.
This book is the fourth in a series of five. Although the stories revolve around the magical inhabitants of the faerie world - don't assume that these books are just for girls. Jared, the main character, is very much a boy - into fighting, getting expelled from school and generally being difficult! Even the faeries are not the twee Enid Blyton variety - neither are they the like the feisty gun-toting elves of the Artemis Fowl books. No, they seem much more realistic: Strange, magical, dangerous and willing to do anything to get Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide. What is it about this innocuous looking old book that drives the inhabitants of the faerie world to such great lengths. Book five - 'The Wrath of Mulgarath' has the amazing answer ...
I have always awarded 5 stars to the previous Spiderwick books. However, a slightly disappointing ending meant that this one got 4 stars. I felt the denouement was below par - and rather rushed, as if the author felt obliged to conclude the book within the customary 7 chapters, when it might have worked better with an extra chapter or two. The conclusion seemed overly convenient, especially the unconvincing way the robotic dogs were dealt with and the Grace kids escaped the quarry. That being said - it's still a most enjoyable book. If you've read the others - then this cannot be missed.


Troll Fell
Troll Fell
by Katherine Langrish
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure, Gold and Troublesome Trolls, 9 Aug 2004
This review is from: Troll Fell (Hardcover)
This book was recommended to me by two different people. At first I wondered whether a book about trolls would be something I'd like. However, I was pleasantly surprised - and found I enjoyed it thoroughly. The fantastical creatures of Norse mythology are a refreshing change from the characters found in most contemporary fantasy. Troll Fell is set in a world where trolls are as common as mice - though considerably more dangerous!

The story begins with young Peer Ulfsson at his beloved father's funeral. Finding himself now the obligatory orphan required for most children's fiction, he goes to live with his two unpleasant uncles: Baldur and Grim. They live in an old watermill at the foot of Troll Fell - and soon put Peer to work, treating him like an unpaid slave. Fortunately, Peer has his faithful dog, Loki, with him - and soon makes friends with Hilde from a neighboring farm, whose father has just sailed off on a Viking ship. He also befriends a Nis - a mysterious little creature who cleans the mill, (badly), in return for a daily bowl of groute, (a sort of Norse porridge - not the stuff between your bathroom tiles). Peer also makes the acquaintance of Granny Greenteeth who lives in the millpond, waiting to drag the unwary down to the bottom.
As if slaving for Grim and Baldur isn't bad enough, Peer soon discovers his uncles have more sinister plans for him; plans that involve making a nefarious deal with the trolls of Troll fell. I'll say no more - leaving you to enjoy this beautifully crafted tale for yourself. Suffice to say it all ends well, with a twist or two along the way. An excellent first novel - hopefully the first of many.


Lucinda's Secret (Spiderwick Chronicle)
Lucinda's Secret (Spiderwick Chronicle)
by Holly Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.24

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Spiderwick Chronicles so far, 27 July 2004
'Lucinda's Secret' is the third book in the Spiderwick Chronicles - continuing from where Book 2 -'The Seeing Stone' left off.
The Grace children are in more danger than ever. Thimbletack their house-boggart has fallen out with nine year-old-Jared because he refuses to give him Arthur Spiderwick's old book containing the truth about the invisible faerie world - only now, it isn't invisible to the Grace kids any longer. A hobgoblin spat in their eyes, giving them 'the sight,' and now they see magical creatures that are invisible to their mother and everyone else. This is perhaps as well, as Jared's twin brother Simon is looking after an enormous injured griffin!
The old house that the Grace family live in belongs to their Great Aunt Lucinda - locked away in an insane asylum for refusing food and claiming she is fed by faeries. Jared realizes that their mad relative isn't perhaps as insane as people think - so he, Simon and Mallory visit her, to ask her advice about what they should do with the Field Guide. But when they return home they are in for an unpleasant surprise. This time their adventure involves a phooka, a unicorn and some beautiful yet sinister elves.
These little books are like something from a bygone era. The writing is a delight - but it is the illustrations that make them truly special. They are amply illustrated with fabulous 'Arthur Rackham' style pictures that will delight children from 8 to 80.
This book is the third in a series of five - about the strange, magical, and decidedly dangerous inhabitants of the invisible faerie world that surrounds us. The Spiderwick Chronicles continue with: Book 4 - 'The Ironwood Tree.'


Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle)
Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle)
by Christopher Paolini
Edition: Hardcover

28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Review - Praise & Criticism, 26 July 2004
This is a difficult book to review. However, I will try to make my comments as helpful and balanced as possible - fully aware that many may well disagree.

When I read that this book had been written by an Author aged fifteen (when he started), I approached it with enthusiasm - and an open mind. Surely, I thought, for it to get published, it must be way beyond the talents of most young writers. In many ways it is; I certainly cannot imagine many people of that age having the patience to write something of this length. So, five stars for effort!

However, I have not awarded this book five stars. Why? Well, although an excellent effort for one so young, it undoubtedly reads as the work of an immature writer with much still to learn ... and when I pay good money for a book, I would prefer not to be reading someone's apprenticeship material, no matter how valiant the attempt. There are countless other reviews all saying the same kind of thing and quoting specific examples of immature writing style - so I won't bother to do the same. I just genuinely wish I'd taken notice of them, instead of being lured by the marketing - and a nicely illustrated front cover.

Undoubtedly, this young man is a bookseller's/marketer's dream. In interviews he comes over as intelligent and engaging. And this is, at least partly, what is helping to sell what would otherwise be a rather amateurish and overlong book. At several stages whilst reading, I tried to analyze how it got as far as publication. Tightening Eragon by about a third could have worked wonders alone - but that would be just the beginning. Considerable improvements are needed with regard to plot (too dull and predictable), pacing (waaaaay too long and slow), characterization (too many characters distinctly two-dimensional) and originality (nearly everything in this book has been done before by somebody else - and done far, far better).

No doubt, the next epistle in this series will be a huge improvement. The young author will hopefully have developed and honed his craft - and a second book will have the benefit of the editing process. But meanwhile, if you're thinking of buying this book here's my advice:

If you are the type of reader who when offered an epic meandering tale about knights and dragons, will cheer, grab it with both hands and gobble your way through it - no matter what the quality; then go ahead and buy it - this book is for you. However, if you are a discerning reader with limited time, then I heartily recommend buying something else (preferably shorter). There are plenty of debut novelists out there who have spent many years honing their skills before expecting customers to part with their hard-earned cash; try one of their books instead. If you like mythic-type tales, take a look at 'Troll Fell' a debut novel by Katherine Langrish for example - and compare the vastly superior quality of writing.


The Seeing Stone (Spiderwick Chronicles)
The Seeing Stone (Spiderwick Chronicles)
by Holly Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.24

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2nd Episode of the Spiderwick Chronicles, 22 July 2004
'The Seeing Stone' is the second book in the Spiderwick Chronicles - continuing from where Book 1 - 'The Field Guide,' left off.
Once again, the three Grace children (Jared, Simon and Mallory) are in danger from the inhabitants of the faerie world. Jared has befriended Thimbletack, their house-boggart - but he warns Jared that unless he hands over Arther Spiderwick's mysterious book, his family are in mortal danger. Jared refuses, and moments later Simon is dragged away by invisible goblins - which can only be seen by mortals through a magical 'Seeing Stone.' Jared and his sister, fencing expert Mallory, set off to rescue their brother - but they are in for a few surprises along the way - including a troll, a friendly hobgoblin and a gigantic griffin.
For those unfamiliar with the series, these 5 little books are a real retro-style treat to the eyes. The quality of the binding is considerable, the stories charming - and the illustrations superlative. If only more children's books were illustrated to this high standard! Each story is divided into seven chapters making it ideal for a week of bedtime stories. The writing style is easily accessible to the young, yet will appeal to all ages. The words have a clarity and simplicity that will not overtax the young reader whilst using an intersting enough vocbulary to appeal to older readers too.
This book is the second in a series of five. The stories revolve around the magical inhabitants of the faerie world - but these faeries are not the twee Enid Blyton variety - neither are they the like the feisty gun-toting elves of the Artemis Fowl books. They are strange, magical, and decidedly dangerous. The Spiderwick story continues with: Book 3 - 'Lucinda's Secret.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10