‘The Sword of Kuromori’ by Jason Rohan

Motorcycle ninjas. Demons in business suits. Headless vampires. Welcome to Jason Rohan’s The Sword of Kuromori (for 8+ years).

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13-year-old Kenny Blackwood arrives in Japan to do a bit of sightseeing while seeing his Dad. But even before he lands at the airport, things start to get weird. It’s not long before he discovers that Tokyo is teeming with mythical monsters that only he can see – and they all want him dead! Instead of a dream holiday, Kenny finds himself in the middle of a hidden war, one that is about to explode and kill millions – unless he can find a fabled lost sword and fulfil a destiny he never knew he had. And he has just nine days to do it…

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Right from the start, Rohan blends action with humour – and it is perhaps this balance (a little like the Percy Jackson books) that carries the plot along so well. Take this letter from Kenny’s grandfather to Kenny in the first chapter: ‘If I have any advice for you, it is this: believe in yourself; trust your feelings; do what is right, especially when it is most difficult; and always carry a cucumber near fresh water.’ And after reading this letter, Kenny is plunged into an adventure with mythical creatures, secret codes, strange nightmares and a brilliant (and super punchy) female ally, Kiyomi. I loved the relationship between Kiyomi and Kenny – that initially Kenny has to be taught things by Kiyomi, like how to fight: ‘He’s useless,’ she muttered. ‘Teaching him to fight is like putting Poyo on a diet’ but ultimately Kenny and Kiyomi will battle alongside each other against the evil lurking in Japan.

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There is a powerful sense of menace at the heart of the book, as Kenny begins to realise: there is ‘Something huge. Something Ancient. Something evil’ waiting for him… And the creatures Rohan conjures up are truly frightening: ‘rows of sharp, jagged teeth erupted along the length of the tongue and it advanced towards Kenny – sss-puck, sss-puck – lashing the tongue back and forth like a barbed whip.’ The action is fast-paced and clearly drawn, almost leaping off the page: ‘The tennis racquet slammed into the creature’s face; there was a twang of elastic tension and then – whoosh – it rebounded, flew across the room, bounced off the wall…’ But set aside the modern-day action there is a deeper mysticism lying at the book’s core and Rohan draws on ancient Japanese temples in the jungle and legendary dragons imprisoned beneath the earth. The Sword of Kuromori is an energetic and exciting middle grade adventure set in an original setting and filled with brilliant characters – fans of Percy Jackson will love it. The sequel, The Shield of Kuromori will be published this May.

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Q&A with author, K.E. Ormsbee

Next up on Moontrug’s Wednesday Q&As is author, K.E. Ormsbee, whose debut, THE WATER AND THE WILD, is out now. We’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now we’re skipping straight to ogres…

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1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?

Luna Lovegood, hands down. That girl knows her magical creatures, and I bet she could even devise a non-violent way of shooing the ogre from my bedroom. She could also probably place some protective charms on my house so an incident like that doesn’t happen again.

 

2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?

This is tricky, because I do have an undying love for unicorns:

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But if it’s a matter of getting to work quickly, I’d have to go with dragoooon! Great big dragon wings travel faster than hooves, right? Also, the dragon could warm up my to-go breakfast with her fiery breath.

 

3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 

When I was nine, I was leading a pack of kids up a flight of stairs and proceeded to totally wipe out. Since I was in front, everyone saw the humiliation, and nobody could move until I’d recovered. It was not a graceful recovery.

 

4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?

Roanoke Colony, aka The Lost Colony, 1590. I wanna find out the definitive explanation for those mysterious disappearances and the word Croatoan.

 

5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.

A portal fantasy filled with poetry, magic, adventure, will o’ the wisps, and BIRDS.

 

THE WATER AND THE WILD

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For as long as Lottie Fiske can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.

And then a door opens in the apple tree.

Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.

AUTHOR BIO

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  1. E. (aka Kathryn) Ormsbee grew up with a spaceship in her basement and went on many pretend (?) expeditions to the moon. The Water and the Wild is her first novel.

‘The Wild Beyond’ by Piers Torday

In November 2013 I began a journey with a boy called Kester – and two years later I’m still enthralled by his adventures. I’ve watched Kester rescue the animals with stag, wolf cub, cockroach, white pigeon and mouse in The Last WildI’ve seen Kester save the humans in the award-winning sequel, The Dark Wild. And now it’s time for the final instalment in Piers Torday’s trilogy, The Wild Beyond.

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This is the story of a boy named Kester. He has rescued the last wild animals in the world, and saved his capital city from destruction. But now he must face his greatest challenge yet, because:
1. The only blue whale on the planet has brought news from across the ocean
2. A mysterious steel dome has risen from the Four Towers
3. Out there, somewhere, a brave mouse holds the key to the future

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Although surrounded by his friends, Polly and Aida, and his loyal Wild, Torday begins this book with Kester feeling ‘completely and utterly alone.’ The task ahead, to save the world from complete destruction, finally feels too big for Kester. And it is only when Polly stands up to the adults: ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves… for telling us we couldn’t do it because we’re children’ that Kester realises that despite the hugeness of the task ahead, together with his friends, he might just be capable of doing it after all. And this is what Torday does so well – he champions ‘the child’ on every page.

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The adventure begins with a call-to-action from something huge and ancient: ‘One watery sound, that leaks deep into my bones and makes me shiver; so slow and so old.’ It is the blue whale whose song tells Kester exactly what he needs to do to save the planet. The scale of adventure that follows is fabulous (being pulled across the ocean by dolphins reminded Moontrug of James and The Giant Peach being tugged by seagulls) – and the ideas the characters and settings raise on the journey are brilliantly bold. Children won’t be able to read this book without thinking about the way their lives impact the natural world – but Torday never labour points or becomes ‘preachy’ – everything is contained within a wonderful tale of adventure, bravery and hope.
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The animal characters and their unique voices leap off the page, from the needy rat (‘This cockroach and I are best pals forever’) to the boastful but adorable wolf cub (‘The more I stare at that drowned wolf, the more I see the most handsomest creature ever to have walked the earth’). The white pigeon is as hilarious (and at times profound) as ever and Moontrug adored new characters like the chilled out lizard dude… But it is perhaps the friendship between Aida, Polly and Kester that Moontrug loved most: feisty dumpsite kid Aida who whips out battery-powered hairdryers from wheelie cases she just ‘happened’ to find, Polly With A Plan and the brave and loyal Kester. The ending to this book broke off a little piece of Moontrug’s heart but when she really thinks about it there could be no other ending to such a story. Torday does it perfectly and beautifully. In fact, Moontrug thinks it’s up there with one of her all-time favourite endings in children’s books. It felt real and raw and honest. The Wild Beyond is an absolute triumph of a book which deserves to win a lot of prizes – and (perhaps more importantly) hearts.

‘Stonebird’ by Mike Revell

Moontrug spotted the cover first: an enormous gargoyle set against a star-pricked sky, looking down on a boy with his dog. And she knew then that this book was going to be good.

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When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can’t. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam’s stories. And stories can be dangerous things… Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma’s illness is getting worse, his mum isn’t coping, and his sister is skipping school… What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam’s family?

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Even from the first page, the magic of the story is turning: ‘It starts at night… A huge shadow in the darkness, a flash of gleaming gold. It sweeps across the garden and blends with the trees, then flies off towards the rundown church.’ Moontrug was reminded of the opening to Patrick Ness’ book, A Monster Calls, where an ancient monster, not unlike Stonebird, visits a boy as damaged and vulnerable as Liam. Moontrug has always felt that gargoyles are magical and Revell presents Stonebird’s otherworldly character in a very real way. But the gargoyle’s power is wrapped up in the power of story-telling – and as Liam discovers, there is much more to stories than he had at first believed.

Mike-RevellMike Revell, author of Stonebird

 

Liam is a wonderful character and Revell perfectly captures his fractured life, where bullies torment him at school and his mother is falling apart at home. There is something adorable about him – maybe it’s the way he mutters ‘orange penguins’ over and over again to try and take his mind off frightening things or the way he realises he’s Spoiled The Mood for his older sister and her new boyfriend. But it is when Liam holds Mrs Culpepper’s egg and imagines the enormity of the question ‘What If’ that the story really takes flight. Because within ‘What If’ Liam has the power of stories on his side, the power of an ancient gargoyle, Stonebird, to help make things right. But can ‘two kids and an egg and a whole lot of luck’ make a difference? Stonebird is a beautiful story for 8+ years, full of hope and magic, where teachers aren’t just there to drum the curriculum into you – they’re there to open your eyes, strengthen your soul and give you hope for the journey ahead – and gargoyles aren’t just forgotten lumps of stone – they’re guardians watching over you with the power to make things good.

Wednesday Q&A with Tatum Flynn

Next up on Moontrug’s Wednesday Q&As is MG author, Tatum Flynn, whose debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, is out tomorrow! We’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now we’re skipping straight to ogres…

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1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?
Hagrid. He’s one of my absolute favourite characters, and although he’s big enough to fight off an ogre, knowing Hagrid he’d probably befriend it and we’d all end up playing cards in the Three Broomsticks over a pint of butterbeer which would be infinitely preferable to ogre brains everywhere.
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2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?
DRAGONSSSSSS. Dragons are always the answer. Plus all your colleagues and your boss would be so terrified of you they wouldn’t dare ask you to do any work when you got there.
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3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 
This is why I don’t like bosses. Okay, here we go: my first childhood crush was Bill Sykes. WHAT was Tiny Me thinking?? I blame Oliver Reed.
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4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?
Soooo many places and times I’d like to go to, but as someone with a Latin degree I’d probably plump for Roman times. If I went around 15AD I could both meet Ovid, one of my favourite writers, and a certain Jesus chap whom I’m quite curious about.

 

5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.
Carnivorous carousel horses! Death-trap-riddled libraries! Pouty Lucifer! God in his pyjamas! Demon sloths! Tiny ninjas!

 

THE D’EVIL DIARIES

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Twelve-year-old Jinx is hopeless at being evil. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re Lucifer’s youngest son. But when Jinx runs away from Pandemonium, the walled city he’s lived in all his life, he bumps into dead girl Tommy – who’s been sent to Hell for accidentally feeding her nasty uncle to a circus lion – and unearths a conspiracy that could up-end the entire underworld.
Cue shenanigans involving carnivorous carousel horses, death-trap-riddled libraries and hungry quicksand. Now the fate of the realm rests in the hands of its most unlikely demon and a girl who shouldn’t be in Hell at all…

AUTHOR BIO

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Tatum Flynn lives by the sea in England with a cat called Friday and too many hats. She has a soft spot for the word ‘ramshackle’, and a vagabond past which involves piloting lifeboats in Venezuela, playing poker in Las Vegas, shooting rapids in the Grand Canyon and almost falling out of a plane over Scotland. Her debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, will be out from Orchard/Hachette on the 2nd April 2015, with a sequel, Hell’s Belles, to follow January 2016. Find her on Tumblr (sometimes) and Twitter (far too often).