Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Author: Rebecca Fisher


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Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild: A fantastic middle book in a captivating trilogy

Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild by Philip Reeve

In his review for Skye McKenna’s Hedgewitch, Reeve said: “there are only two sorts of fantasy story: the ones that feel fake and the ones that feel real. It’s hard to explain the difference but you know the real ones when you read them.”

I know exactly what he’s talking about, because he writes the real ones too. His depiction of Faerie – that ancient place where all the fairy tales come from – captures its mystery and danger and uncanny beauty as it also exists in books like Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,


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Empty Smiles: The fourth and final game begins

Empty Smiles by Katherine Arden

What is it that makes funfairs and carnivals so scary? Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari both take place in carnivals, as do a few significant chapters of Stephen King’s It and several third season episodes of Stranger Things. I even recall that the third book of L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game ended in an abandoned funfair.


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Dark Waters: “Until next time” is now

Dark Waters by Katherine Arden

The third (but clearly not final, given its cliffhanger ending) book in the SMALL SPACES QUARTET sees our three eleven-year-old protagonists once more go up against “the Smiling Man,” an immortal fey creature who loves to make deals and play games with unsuspecting mortals. As I anticipated after Small Spaces and Dead Voices, it’s Brian’s turn to be front-and-center while Ollie and Coco take on supporting roles.

Having received a cryptic note that promises yet another round of the terrifying feud they’ve been dragged into,


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Hedgewitch: The first instalment in a magical new series

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna

Have you ever read a book in which the plot and characterization are best described as “fun but not special” only to completely fall in love with the world in which they’re set? In this case, there’s nothing wrong with the story of Hedgewitch (even if it hews a little too closely to the HARRY POTTER formula for its first few chapters: a magically-gifted child escapes a terrible environment with the help of a flying broomstick and a talking cat) but the construction and ambiance of the setting is just intoxicating.


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Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep: A great start to a brand-new trilogy

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve has been one of my favourite authors for a while now, even though most of his stories are slightly outside my preferred genres. I loved Railhead, which was science-fiction, and Mortal Engines, which was dystopian – so imagine the weird squeaky noise of excitement I made on discovering that his latest book was not only in my genre wheelhouse (fantasy, of course) but which bore the captivating title of Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep (2021).


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Knock Three Times: Wizards and Warriors join forces

Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell

The third book in Cressida Cowell‘s THE WIZARDS OF ONCE sees our young protagonists on an adventure to collect the rare ingredients needed to banish the terrible Witches that have recently awoken all across Ancient Britain.

As difficult as it may be to find the scales of a Nuckalavee, it’s even stranger to consider the team they’ve assembled to retrieve them. Xar is the youngest son of the Head Wizard Encanzo, while Wish is the daughter of the cold Queen Sychorax,


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Twice Magic: A strong follow-up to the first story

Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

The second book in Cressida Cowell‘s WIZARDS OF ONCE series does everything a good sequel should: expand the world, develop the characters, and deepen the story. As we discovered in The Wizards of Once, Ancient Britain is inhabited by two distinct races: the Wizards, who live among the magical creatures of the forest, and the Warriors, who are armed with iron weapons, the only metal that can repel magic.

In the first book,


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Hilda and the Black Hound: A slightly scarier adventure for our Hilda

Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson

The fourth book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our little blue-haired adventurer grappling with two brand new mysteries. Taking place in a Scandinavian-inspired setting filled with all sorts of mythological creatures, Hilda and her mother have recently moved to the city after their log-cabin was destroyed — and Hilda is finding it a bit difficult to adjust.

Her mother suggests she join the Sparrow Scouts, something she was involved with as a little girl,


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Hilda and the Bird Parade: Hilda’s adventures continue

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson

The third book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our blue-haired adventurer in quite different surroundings. After the events of Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda and her mother have moved to the city, far away from the open spaces of the countryside and the multitude of magical creatures that live there.

Still, Hilda is trying to make the best of it, even if her mother is far more nervous about her roaming the city by herself than she was the country.


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MONSTRESS 5: Warchild: It never flinches

MONSTRESS 5: Warchild by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

This is my fifth review for what is the fifth volume in Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s collaborative MONSTRESS project, and it’s getting difficult not to repeat myself. Here are the basics: it takes place in a matriarchal society that’s embroiled in a devastating war between those that wield magic and those that rely on technological advancements.

The main character is Maika Halfwolf, a girl with one arm and a Lovecraftian monster living inside her,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

We have reviewed 8302 fantasy, science fiction, and horror books, audiobooks, magazines, comics, and films.

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