[Review] Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez

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Alva rushes through the trees in the dead of night with her sniffer wolf, Fen. Being out alone when there’s a kidnapper on the loose is reckless, but if she ever wants to be an investigator like her Uncle Magnus, she’ll need to be first to the crime scene. But what Alva discovers raises more questions than it answers, drawing her into a dangerous search for truth, and for treasure.

I’ve been a fan of Dr Janina Ramirez’ work for a long time so when I found out that she was writing a novel, I knew that I just had to read it. Riddle of the Runes is Ramirez’ debut novel and although it is marketed as a children and young adults’ book, let me tell you – it’s a bloody good read for grown-ups, too!

I cracked this delightful little book open on the day it arrived and utterly devoured it within a couple of days. It tells the story of a young lady named Alva who lives in the Viking town of Kilsgard with her mother Brianna, her little brother Ivan, her uncle Magnus and her wolf Fenrir. This young lady has the spirit of a shieldmaiden and a quick mind that makes her a brilliant investigator. And when two outsiders go missing, when she finds a piece of a casket covered in runes, she knows that she has to get to the bottom of the whole mystery before anyone else gets hurt.

This book is wonderfully written in fast paced prose that is both easily understandable to young adults and language that will delight the older reader too. The descriptions of the landscape surrounding Kilsgard is utterly beautiful and you find yourself transported into Alva’s world, living alongside her as she takes on this mystery. I was particularly delighted with the absolutely beautiful illustrations that are dotted throughout the book, too.

Riddle of the Runes is truly a masterpiece of a book and one that will delight both young and old alike. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next one!

[Review] The Colour Of Poison – Toni Mount

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The narrow, stinking streets of medieval London can sometimes be a dark place. Burglary, arson, kidnapping and murder are every-day events. The streets even echo with rumours of the mysterious art of alchemy being used to make gold for the King.

Join Seb, a talented but crippled artist, as he is drawn into a web of lies to save his handsome brother from the hangman’s rope. Will he find an inner strength in these, the darkest of times, or will events outside his control overwhelm him?

Only one thing is certain – if Seb can’t save his brother, nobody can.

You’ll all already be aware that I usually shy away from historical fiction as much as is humanly possible. For the most part, I’ve had bad experiences with it – badly researched and poorly written stories really don’t make for good reading. But every so often there’s a diamond hidden in the rough. That’s what Toni Mount’s “The Colour Of Poison” was – from the moment I picked the book up I just couldn’t put it down!

It’s a story full of murder and intrigue set within Medieval London. And Mount’s descriptions of the dirty streets of Medieval London almost made me feel like I was there with the characters, trudging through the mud and hearing the jeers of the citizens towards the main character, Seb Foxley. As for the characterisation, each and every character had so much depth it was unreal. I found myself absolutely despising ┬ámany of them (I won’t give away spoilers, but there’s one lady in the story who I couldn’t stand from the moment I realised Seb’s brother was sleeping with her) and fell in love with others. Seb, in particular, grew to be a bit of a crush. And I’m not even sorry to admit it. Seb Foxley – talented and kind despite his disability, all I wanted to do was hug the poor love and tell him everything was going to be okay.

The only thing I found a bit odd when I started to read this novel was the way in which Mount kept switching between first and third person narrative. Chapters from the point of view of anyone other than Seb were written in the third person, whilst Seb’s was all in the first. It took me a while to get used to it, but I soon came to the realisation that it was actually a very clever tool used by Mount as a way of separating the story up so that readers can be clearer over who’s telling that part of the story. It’s not something that I feel everyone will like, however.

I really cannot fault this book at all. From start to finish I loved it and could not put it down. I honestly cannot wait for the next instalment of Seb Foxley’s story, and urge everyone to pick up a copy of this book.