Faeries & Demons with Paula Harrison & Daniel Whelan

Lately, Moontrug has been dabbling at the edges of magic, snooping round woods with a mysterious past (In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll) and glimpsing the snow-bound world of a girl who rides wolves (The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell). So, Moontrug decided it was time to go for some FULL ON MAGIC – we’re talking faeries by Paula Harrison in Red Moon Rising and creatures of the underworld in Daniel Whelan’s Box of Demons.

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Laney is surrounded by magic. She also has magic of her own. She just doesn’t know it yet. Laney discovers the truth about who she is at a time of extreme danger. The faerie tribes are under threat from a dark power that wants to steal away their magic and reign supreme over them all. Laney is going to need all her new-found skills to do battle with the darkness and hold the faerie world together…

Harrison presents us with an ordinary world but one in which magic hovers just behind the curtain of everyday life. Old women are actually Faerie Elders entrusted with a task to show Laney that she has ‘to see with the heart not the eyes’ and many of the children in the seemingly dull village of Skellmore are actually faeries in disguise. Moontrug loved the various Faerie Tribes – Greytail, Thorn, Mist and Kestrel – and children who were captivated by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat will adore imagining what tribe they might belong to. The book is filled with fantastical creatures like Hobgobbits and Shadow Faeries – and spells such as dreamwalks and healing charms using willow bark and skullcap leaves brush every chapter with a sense of other-worldliness. Laney and her friends’ quest is full of faerie flight and underwater secrets: Laney ‘folded her wings behind her and dived in. More than ever she was amazed at how right she felt flying through the water… Through the sway of the water she could hear a faint, wordless singing’) and the sense of dark magic at the heart of the book will keep young readers turning the pages. Harrison brings magic right into the heart of our world and it’s impossible to read the book and not feel that perhaps you might also have wings tucked beneath your shoulder blades. Laney’s story made Moontrug want to soar over woods at night and race through rivers for hidden treasures. This is a gorgeous fantasy book for 7+ years and with the promise of Wildwood Arrows, Sparkstones and White Wolf Statues, it seems there are lots more adventures in store for Laney. Oh goodie.

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Ben Robson can’t remember a time before he had the box, with its three mischief-making demon occupants: smelly, cantankerous Orf, manically destructive Kartofel and fat, slobbering greedy-guts Djinn. When Ben was a kid it was fun and he enjoyed their company. Now he’s older they’re nothing but trouble. Then one day Ben has an angelic visitor who tells him that he can be rid of the box forever if he sends it back to hell. There’s only one catch – the box has other plans…

Like Harrison, Whelan offers readers a sleepy little village where nothing ever happens – but from the first sentence of the book, we know there is more to the village of Rhyl than what first meets the eye: ‘The Apocalypse began in Rhyl, during the second-to-last weekend of January.’ Whelan’s characterisation of the three demons is brilliant and Moontrug especially loved fatso Djinn who, although he cannot eat, is obsessed with the smell of food: ‘Was it nice, Ben? Was it? It was sausages, wasn’t it? I know it was sausages. From the market.’ Whelan has a knack for creating memorable characters, from the school bullies (‘Sally, a clenched fist in the shape of a girl’) to shop owners like Tegwyn (‘a vengeful, petty, Old Testament sort of god’). Throw some particularly strange angels and a possessed box into the mix and you’ve got a pretty exciting adventure ready to unfold. The humour is perfectly balanced with suspense (Moontrug laughed out loud as the Seraph prompted Ben that he was pushing against a ‘pull’ door) and Lucy provides a perfect side-kick for Ben as he learns to deal with grief and a sense of feeling that he doesn’t belong. And to top it all off, the edition I have has the most beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. A fantastic fantasy adventure for 9+ readers.

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