Tag Archives: Allan Boroughs

Book Review Saturday – ‘Ironheart’

As you may or may not know, I’m a person who has written an adventure story for 8-12 year olds which is largely set in the Frozen North, a place peopled with all manner of weird and wonderful creatures and natural phenomena to take readers’ breath away (well, hopefully at least – and I promise to return the breath afterwards, once I’ve finished with it). Ironheart is… well. Ironheart is an adventure story for 8-12 year olds largely set in the Frozen North, and there are plenty of weird and wonderful creatures in it, not to mention natural (and unnatural) phenomena, and it certainly takes the breath away at times.

Image: panmacmillan.com

Image: panmacmillan.com

Having said all that, it’s as different from my book as two books can be, I think. It really made me realise that two stories can have incredibly similar settings (in both cases, a post-apocalyptic world which mixes elements from a possible future and an alternative past), and some similar characters (a spirited young girl whose quest to find a missing parent drives the plot) and still be different. Which is great. Reading Ironheart turned out to be quite a strange experience for me, though, mainly because of my own book and its long, complicated, messy and rather painful trek to publication, but also because there were so many things about it I loved, and I couldn’t help but compare it to my own work, sometimes to my own detriment.

Putting all this aside, though, Ironheart is a great read, and one I’m glad to have finally experienced.

Ironheart tells the story of India Bentley, who lives, along with her sister Bella and their odious stepmother Roshanne, in a version of London which has been irrevocably damaged by floods and environmental decay. The girls’ father, John, is missing, presumed dead, in Siberia, where he had been working as a prospector for oil. In this future London, food is at a premium, and there seems to be no respite from the damp, and the cold, and the grimness of life – and India’s life is hard enough, what with her dreadful stepmother and the creepy old man to whom she (India) is to be married. Thaddeus Clench (the aptly-named ‘groom’) is a creature on a par with Professor Pennyroyal in Philip Reeve’s Predator Cities novels, a pure streak of teeth-juddering horror, interested only in self-preservation. I hated him intimately, which goes to show how well he’s written. Just as India seems beyond help, the explorer and old-tech hunter Verity Brown, along with her marvellous friend Calculus (an android, mind, not a robot) appear in her life, looking for information about her father, and India sees her chance. Not being anyone’s fool, India gives her stepmother and Clench the slip, and escapes with Mrs Brown and Calc.

So begins an adventure which brings India to Angel Town, an outpost in frozen Siberia, where she meets enemies and friends alike, loses something precious, and realises what a friend she has in Calculus, a giant metal man who was once a killing machine and who now dedicates his existence to keeping her safe. She becomes part of the crew of a ‘rig’, a diesel-powered vehicle which chugs its way into the icy wastes in search of treasure and oil (or whatever can be found) and learns the truth about her father, and why he was really in Siberia. He wasn’t simply looking for oil, of course; his true quest was to find Ironheart, a mythical place where the secrets of the old world were kept, and which may hold the key to the future existence of the planet. And, of course, there were others on his trail, including the villainous Lucifer Stone and his hapless, trigger-happy son Sid, who try to thwart India at every turn…

The only thing I didn’t thoroughly enjoy about this novel was the fact I felt, particularly near the end, that it was trying to do too much. The story lost me a little as it drew near its conclusion, and I think it had something to do with the secrets surrounding Ironheart (about which I’m giving away nothing, no siree, lips sealed here). I couldn’t help but think there was so much crammed into the last hundred pages or so that it made the action seem a bit rushed and perfunctory, which was a real shame. There were characters who weren’t developed enough, and legends I’d love to have heard more about, and issues (like ecology and conservation) which could have been heightened further if the focus had been changed slightly.

But, in every other respect, I loved this book.

India is great, and so is the spunky Mrs Verity Brown (I’d happily read a series of books simply about her!) and I adored the brave, clever and loving Calculus, and his relationship with India. I thought Sid (despite being a dreadful little twerp) was a sympathetic and troubled character whose less-than-appealing characteristics were perfectly understandable when one considered his father, and I loved Captain Bulldog, and even Mrs Chang (if she was a little on the stereotypical side). It was the characters who made this book so good, for me. They were all fully-rounded, well described, and clearly realised, and the dialogue (more often than not) was great, which always wins me over. Even though the plot and pacing didn’t quite work for me as the book drew to a close, I’d still recommend this book as a fast and exciting read which should grab the imaginations of boys and girls (of all ages) alike, and which has enough thrills, tension and mystery to keep any reader satisfied. I’ll be back for the sequels!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read Yet

Even those of us who read a lot (cough, me) don’t always get enough time to read everything we want. There are, after all, only so many hours in the day, and so many other pesky things that need doing, like work and sleep and eating, occasionally, and sometimes – if we’re brave enough – venturing outside and dealing with people who aren’t, you know, written on a page, but actually literally made of flesh and blood and bones and stuff.

Life can be tough for the bookworms among us. Reality very rarely stacks up against the worlds of fiction, for one, and people – charming as they are – don’t speak in the gorgeous curlicued turns of phrase one finds in books, and when you look at a tree in the real world, there aren’t spools of rich descriptive language hanging off its branches like clothes-tags, making it real and believable. You’ve just got to use your eyes, instead, which is boring. But that’s why we always go back to books, I suppose; they continue to allure and beguile, and there are so many stories still to be told and experienced. It does scare me that there are so many stories in the world, and I only have one brain which is already overcrowded, and I’ll never read them all. But there are a few books which I simply can’t believe I haven’t made time for yet.

And it’s a Tuesday. This is a Top Ten Tuesday post – check out the Broke and the Bookish for more. And it’s time to come clean.

The Top Ten Most Talked-About Books Which I Have Not Yet Read (to my eternal shame)

Emma Carroll, The Girl Who Walked on Air

I have read (and loved, and reviewed) Emma Carroll‘s gorgeous debut novel Frost Hollow Hall, and I have been meaning to get around to her other books ever since. She’s now on her third, if not her fourth, published book (eek!) and so I’d better get my act together. If only she’d stop being so darned talented and prolific, that is.

Samantha Shannon, The Bone Season/The Mime Order

Anybody with half a brain, or any sort of eye on the bookish world, has heard of the phenomenon that is Samantha Shannon. Her six-book deal at the age of twenty made literary hearts flutter and created a huge buzz around her work (which must, on reflection, have been quite a weight of pressure), but I have yet to visit her alternate London, peopled with clairvoyants and magic. The first two books in the series have since been published to huge acclaim, and I really should catch up, shouldn’t I?

V.E. (Victoria) Schwab, Vicious

Victoria Schwab is great fun on Twitter, and one of the most hard-working authors out there today. She seems to have a new book out every other week, which is at once an inspiration and also rather scary. There are several of her works which appeal to me, but I think Vicious is the one I would enjoy the most, being as it is about a pair of college roommates who begin to do experiments on the idea of ‘extraordinary’ abilities – and who then end up turning into superheroes (or supervillains, perhaps). It sounds like a brilliant read. Also, it looks like this:

Image: goodreads.com

Image: goodreads.com

*incoherent squeaking*

Paula Hawkins,

The Girl on the Train I truly love it when debut novels take off into the stratosphere like this one has. It’s a multi-million copy bestseller all over the world, and it has been optioned for film (and I’m sure it will be excellent when it eventually finds its way to the screen). A thriller, about which I know very little – mainly because I do want to read it and I don’t want to spoil it for myself – I know it involves a girl, a train, and what she sees from her carriage window. But that’s all. Don’t none of y’all give away the ending on me.

Zoe Marriott, The rest of The Name of the Blade trilogy

I read and reviewed the first in this trilogy (The Night Itself), concluding my review with the prediction that I would hardly be able to wait for the second book to be published. Well, yes. I have certainly remembered this series, and it’s one I really want to finish, but I still haven’t managed it. I don’t have an excuse, besides time and money. I feel bad enough about it; you don’t have to add to my burden by looking at me like that, thank you very much.

Allan Boroughs, Ironheart (and sequel, Bloodstone)

Argh! And this one! When it was newly published, I thought ‘Oh, my goodness. A book about a young girl embarking on a dangerous quest to the very north of the world? *flail* This book has me written all over it!’ And, in truth, Ironheart is a book I know I would adore. But, for whatever reason, it’s sort of hard to find. I went looking for it, and/or its sequel Bloodstone, last week in a massive bookshop and even the bookseller – that same knowledgeable lady I’ve spoken of before on this here selfsame blog, she who knows all and sees all in children’s and YA publishing – hadn’t heard ot it. So, I gloated for a bit that I’d introduced her to a book she hadn’t come across already, and she promptly ordered in some stock. Next time I’m passing through I’ll pick it up. (And I can’t wait).

Philip Reeve, A Darkling Plain

I’ve just finished Infernal Devices, the third book in the Predator Cities series (jaw-droppingly awesome) and now I can’t wait for the final instalment. Mobile cities which move around on tracks eating one another, airships, reanimated zombie warriors, ruthless killers, pirates, brigands, battles, bravery, unscrupulousness in all corners… Wow. This series is a triumph.

Emer O’Toole, Girls Will be Girls

This is one I’ve picked up and put down a few times when I’ve seen it in bookshops, mainly because the price was a bit prohibitive when it was first published – but I really, really want to read it. A polemic, an academic study, a riveting look at gender roles and why (and how) we play them, this is a book I not only want to read, but one which I know I need to read. I feel everyone needs to read a book like this one. I’m saving my pennies.

Moira Fowley-Doyle, The Accident Season

Apologies to the author for being unable to add the trema to the ‘i’ in her first name (blame WordPress, or perhaps my own ineptitude!), as well as for not having read her book yet. In my defence, it’s only barely been published – if it were Bambi, it’d still be doing the whole ‘trying to walk on the frozen pond’ thing. But it sounds fab, and here’s why: it’s about a family which seems cursed to suffer accidents (some serious) every October, for no explicable reason, and their struggle to break free, I can’t wait to get my brain around it.

Tatum Flynn, The D’Evil Diaries

This is truly shocking. A book with a cover like this:

Image: goodreads.com

Image: goodreads.com

about a twelve-year-old useless younger son of Hell who gets mixed up with a girl who accidentally fed her nasty uncle to a lion before becoming embroiled in a mystery which could upend the reality of the underworld itself, and I haven’t read it? I have no excuse. I can but throw myself on the mercy of the reading gods and hope for forgiveness, in this life or the next.

And there you have it. Ten of the books I’m really looking forward to reading, but which I haven’t quite managed to get to yet. Of course, with every passing week this pile is added to, and I’ll never catch up. But it’ll be fun to try.

Happy Tuesday! What’s on your TBR pile these days?