The Light Hunters / Dragon Storm; Ellis and Pathseeker

The Light Hunters
Dan Walker
UCLan Publishing

Prepare to be immediately swept up in this rip-roaring, action-packed fantasy adventure. ‘You ask me what light is? Light is everything. Every single thing . The very fabric of our world is made up of this force – people, trees, … Few can access Light, control it. You are one.’ So writes Professor Medela before the real story begins; but it’s key to the entire thing.

Twelve year old Lux lives with his ailing Grandpa and Miss Hart, his grandfather’s carer (but much more besides) in Grandpa’s clock repair shop. At school Lux, his best friend, tech-loving Maya and their fellow students are drilled in what to do should there be a Monster attack. For centuries the Light Hunters have, for the benefit of the townsfolk of Daven, done battle with these terrible creatures, not always successfully. In one attack a decade back, Lux’s immediate family along with half the town’s residents lost their lives, turning the people against Light.

Lux is on a mission to save his Grandpa’s life and to this end has been told to search for a book called Investigations into Light and Healing by a former Light Hunter. Now Lux himself has a secret: not only is he able to wield light, there’s a possibility he might be the finest Light Healer ever. Against his Grandpas’s strict instructions never to reveal his secret, Lux first uses his healing power for saving Maya when she receives a life-threatening injury from a Monster. However this deed draws to the town, one Deimos, a fallen Hunter determined to harness Lux’s power for his own dark and nefarious ends.
Readers join the hero on a journey with lightships, heart-stopping sights and perils unbounded, in this deft amalgam of relatable real-life emotions, a vividly conjured world, a race against time, humour and some wonderful characterisation. What more could one ask, other than, when is the second episode coming?

Dragon Storm: Ellis and Pathseeker
Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Eric Deschamps
Nosy Crow

In the kingdom of Rivven dragons are forbidden. However, hidden from normal people and their King is The Dragonseer Guild, a place for a group of people with a special power enabling them to see beyond the human world. Ellis and his dragon Pathseer are part of this secret league.

Now it’s the Maze Festival in Rivven, and Ellis and Pathseeker are set on being first to complete the three mazes in the the king’s palace grounds and become this year’s tournament winners. But in the mazes they discover a mysterious girl who has her own reasons for wanting to win the tournament and she’s secretly using dangerous dragon magic by wielding a strange necklace.

Now there’s much more at stake for Ellis and Pathseeker. It will take all their courage and expertise to find a path back out of the mazes; yes Pathseeker does eventually discover her power. But can they keep the existence of dragons and the Guild a secret from King Godfic?

This third Dragon Storm adventure is every bit as exciting as the previous two and existing fans as well as new readers will be swept up by the narrative, but want to pause to enjoy Eric Deschamps’ illustrations along the way.

Dragon Storm Tomas and Ironskin / Dragon Storm Cara and Silverthief`

Dragon Storm Tomas and Ironskin
Dragon Storm Cara and Silverthief`

Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Eric Deschamps
Nosy Crow

As the son of a blacksmith it seems as though eleven year old Tomas is destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Then strange things start happening. First he sees a dragon face in the flames of the fire and then after watching Tomas wield a sword, a man returns offering the lad an apprenticeship. With his parents in financial difficulty, it’s an offer not to be refused.

Off he goes to the city leaving his parents far behind and it’s not long before he learns a secret. Despite what he’s been led to believe, the dragons are anything but extinct, at least not in the land of Draconis, and Tomas’s apprenticeship is with the secret Dragonseer’s guild. There’s a lot to learn as Tomas and his fellow apprentices discover during their training with their dragons.

Soon a problem rears its head for Tomas: Ironskin, his dragon reminds him of home and he misses his parents. This gets in the way of him forming a true bond with her, meaning he has to leave. Then a fire breaks out endangering his parents’ lives … Seemingly real trust between boy and dragon is the only thing that can save them and get everyone out of a desperate situation.

Fast moving and full of excitement, this is ideal for newly independent readers, and Eric Deschamps black and white illustrations make the book even more appealing.

The second magical adventure in the series focuses on Cara and Silverthief, her dragon. Cara, whom we met in the first book, has spent her earlier life on the streets and consequently is unused to having friends (other than the voice in her head,) nor trusting others.

What is it that they’re not being told? What lies on the other side of the stone door not to be entered?
Trust is again key in this gripping tale of derring do; so too is friendship; but then really the two are interconnected; so will rule-breaking Cara become part of the Dragonseer family or will she return from whence she came? The choice is hers …

It’s really good to see a series that both boys and girls will enjoy.

The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog

The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog
Alastair Chisholm and Jez Tuya
Walker Books

Siblings Abby and Jamie certainly aren’t lacking in imagination and they love to hear a good story, so a night camping under the stars offers the perfect time and place for a tale from Dad. He’s more than willing so, as he toasts marshmallows over a fire, the children suggest the characters to include – the Prince, the Frog, (inspired by Abby’s soft toy) the Princess, the Witch and a MONSTER.

Dad begins his yarn: “It was a dark and stormy night and at the bottom of a horrible mountain … were the heroes.” Enter the cast – mounted on his steed comes the handsome Prince; then there’s the Princess (a closet jewel thief of the daring kind), witch Bogwort – (a Ninja when necessary)

and the gruesome Grubber.

Soon the interruptions start: first it’s Abby who seems set on ensuring that the Frog features large despite its diminutive stature. Thereafter the siblings’ interjections turn the plot this way and that as the three of them co-create a very funny, exciting fantasy with Dad accommodating the children’s ideas into the narrative. A narrative made all the more fun thanks to Jez Tuya’s comical – often slapstick – illustrations of larger-than-life story characters particularly that hirsute giant,

and Barry the frog – hurrah! Yes, despite Jamie’s dismissive scorning, the part he plays in making a happy ever after finale is far from small.

I love the close-up perspectives and the panel sequence

– actually I love everything about this book. So too will young listeners who will surely respond with relish to any adult sharer giving it the dynamic performance the tale deserves.

Inch and Grub

Inch and Grub
Alastair Chisholm and David Roberts
Walker Books

What’s the most important thing in your life – is it the acquisition of ever more ‘must have’ stuff, or is it something as simple as friendship? I’m pretty sure that during this on-going pandemic, this is something most of us have been considering and discovering the answer to.

Let me introduce two cavemen, Inch and Grub. The latter’s cave is bigger so that makes him the best, so he says. Inch responds by adding a water feature to his abode but then Grub makes fire.

This ignites their competitive natures well and truly, resulting in a contest wherein each one tries to outdo the other, creating bigger and better things, until their colossal, precariously perched towers of furniture, homes, modes of transport,

technological devices and more,

reach their tipping point – uh-oh!

The outcome is, both rivals learn a valuable lesson – actually more than one – about themselves …

With its timely and vital message, this terrific story will make you and youngsters giggle all the way through as you eagerly anticipate the seemingly inevitable denoument.

David Roberts’ wonderfully quirky illustrations adroitly amplify the impact of the telling, showing how such games of brinkmanship are almost bound to end in disaster.

Superb!

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears
Alastair Chisholm and Jez Tuya
Walker Books

This is essentially a bedtime story treasure trove – a fairy story with a very clever twist or two, or even more.

It begins with Dad asking son Jamie what kind of bedtime story he’d like. Jamie requests “A made-up one!” to include the titular characters and so Dad does as he’s bid and begins to tell his tale within a tale and a right rambling yarn it is into which Jamie insists breaking with questions and interjections. Dad then weaves these into his telling, no matter how far off piste they might be or how irritating. “Why couldn’t the Princess rescue the Prince? … Mum says Princesses in stories are rubbish.” Dad eventually concedes only for Jamie to decide, “No actually I want the Prince.” …

The Princess has been incarcerated in a tower by “her wicked aunt, a Witch with an Evil Eye, ” Dad continues and so it goes on.

We discover that the castle is made (to Jamie’s disgust) entirely out of broccoli and the Witch is really a Ninja. Uh-ha! And if that’s not enough topsy-turvyness, then I’ll have you know that as they approach Castle Broccoli the Prince is actually carrying the horse

and the Princess isn’t all she seems.

Nonetheless all ends happily – twice over- in this splendid romp of a bedtime tale telling experience that will delight both receivers and deliverers. It well and truly flips the traditional fairy story right on its head and not only is it a smashing bedtime offering (albeit not a brief one); it’s absolutely bursting with classroom potential too; and not simply because Dad promises a continuation involving the Bears on the following night.

Yes, Alistair Chisholm’s telling is terrific, but Jez Tuya’s illustrations are pretty cool too – or should that be hot – certainly so here …

and full of hilarious, chortle worthy details.