Son of Shadow by John Lenahan

Cover design by Nell Wood

Son of Shadow is the start of a new fantasy trilogy, following on from the Shadowmagic Trilogy. Admission…I have not read the original trilogy but will be rectifying that soon. This omission did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, but would have helped in following who was who as the story unfolded.

Thanks to The Write Reads @The_WriteReads and Eye and Lightning publishers for the advanced copy to review.

Blurb

A world of faeries, leprechauns and dragons – and magic fuelled by the blood of trees.

A mystery portal to the Real World.

And a pair of curious young adventurers who know they shouldn’t step through it…

Meet Fergal the Second, nicknamed ‘two’. Or ‘Doe’, in his own language. He can do magic. But, for the moment, he’s forgotten where he’s from. Or what’s happened to his blind friend Ruby.

He’s actually from Tir na Nog, the enchanted world of Shadowmagic, where a new generation of the royal House of Duir are cheeking their parents, preparing for adulthood and itching to see the Real World for themselves – whatever the peril.

Review

The story is split into three parts. The first covers Fergal’s introduction to the Real World, where he has no memory of where he came from, who he is or what he is doing. Something is clear though…he loves Real World pizza.

He does know how to make coins disappear, not slight of hand like a stage magician, but actually disappear. He then struggles to understand why he gets into trouble for doing so, despite being told he won’t, as the coin owners think it is deception, not magic.

Fergal then works out that he needs to find his sister. On his travels, having escaped from an asylum, he meets people who know of his faerie home land and of his family, some helpful, some not. With help, and some setbacks, he manages to get to where he needs to be, but still cannot find his sister.

The second part is set back in Tir na Nog, Fergal’s home. We discover through his memories who he is, how his sister disappeared and how his homeland is linked to the Real World. We also meet his family and friends.

Fergal is a cheeky teenager who rebels against his family’s teachings at times but at heart is a good kid. He learns the hard way that putting off admitting something to those who can help does not always end well,

The final part brings the two worlds together. Fergal and his friends have to work together, using magic to rescue not only his sister but also other family members from an evil sorceress.

The ending sets up for the next instalment very well, with Fergal saying “Oh cack” at what is to come, and I for one am already looking forward to continuing the story. It is at this point that reading the original trilogy would have been most helpful.

The author has created well rounded characters, warts and all, and the world building, especially Tir na Nog, is exceptional.

Book Info

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 310 Pages

Publishing: 25th June 2022

About the Author

Born in Philadelphia but long settled in the UK, John Lenahan is an acclaimed magician and TV performer. He fronted his own BBC2 magic series Stuff the White Rabbit, played the voice of the toaster in Red Dwarf and has appeared on a wide range of entertainment shows including TFI Friday, Comedy Café and Celebrity Squares. He is a member of the exclusive Magic Circle. He is also the author of the popular Shadowmagic trilogy, a fantasy adventure series for young adults which combines Irish folk myth with 21st-century wit. Son of Shadow takes up the story once more, following the noble houses of the magical parallel world of Tir na Nog into the next generation.

Punch by Barbara Henderson

This is not a new book, it was published in 2017. I discovered it by chance, having seen a different book on Twitter and following a link to the publisher’s website (@cranachanbooks https://www.cranachanpublishing.co.uk/ ). Being Scottish, with a fascination for Victorian times and also Punch and Judy, I obviously ordered it. I also ordered some other books, but that is for another blog.

Punch tells the story of Phineas, an orphan living in 1889 Inverness under the volatile guardianship of his “Uncle” Ewan. He is sent on a nighttime errand, which ends with the town market halls being set on fire. Falsely accused and justifiably scared of the reaction of his guardian and the police, Phineas goes on the run.

He forms unlikely alliances with an escaped prisoner and a family of travelling entertainers on his journey, which includes encounters with a dancing bear and Queen Victoria. He learns new skills, including becoming a puppeteer. He also has a bounty on his head, wanted for arson. Can he clear his name? Can he resolve his issues with his turbulent past? How he became orphaned is haunting him. This and way he was treated by his guardian means he struggles with trusting his new companions. Are they on his side or biding their time to turn him in for the money?

Barbara Henderson has written a gripping story based on a true event (the market halls in Inverness did burn down). The strength of this story is in the characters: their backstory, their relationships with each other, how they support each other to make sense of what has happened to them and how they finally resolve misunderstandings of their own and other people.

Themes of broken families, living with a bullying adult, friendship and trust run through the story, as does compassion, hope and love. When I took a break from reading, I was thinking of Phineas and his predicament and I wanted to get back to it as soon as possible…the sign of a very good book. I plan to read more of Barbara’s books.

The cover art, which I love, is by Corinna Bahr.

Mystery of the Night Watchers by A.M. Howell

MAY, 1910. As the blazing Halley’s comet draws close to the earth, Nancy is uprooted to start a new life in Suffolk with a grandfather she has never met. With every curtain drawn shut, Nancy is forbidden from leaving her grandfather’s house: no one must know that her or her mother are there.

Yet, when Nancy discovers the house’s secret observatory, she watches her mother and grandfather creep out every night… Where are they going? And why mustn’t any of them be seen? Why does the Mayor hate her grandfather? As the mysteries pile up, Nancy has to bring dark secrets from the past to light – even if doing so will put her own life at risk.

A.M. Howell has done it again. A very enjoyable, mysterious, quick-paced adventure with many secrets being revealed to Nancy about her family as she investigates what her mother and grandfather are up to. Some of the secrets she is happy to discover, a couple not so much. The story is about family, the secrets they keep (and the reasons why), trust, power (how not to use it) and standing up for what you know to be the right thing, no matter how difficult it is or who it is you are standing up against. Sometimes you can be surprised by who else will stand with you once you start.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love a map in the front of a book. A.M. Howell doesn’t disappoint, featuring a map of 1910 Bury St. Edmunds as brought to life by Nancy and friends.

I was provided with an eARC of this book by NetGalley and Usborne Publishing. It is published on 8th July 2021.