Book Review: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung

23384425A Tail of Camelot (Mice of the Round Table #1)

Julie Leung

4/5 stars

Release Date: October 4, 2015

Publisher: HarperCollins

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name.

Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger.

With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.

Review:

Maybe a 4.5. Slight spoilers in review.

At first glance, A TAIL OF CAMELOT by Julie Leung sounds like a cute MG novel – a retelling of King Arthur and Camelot set in the POV of small, anthropomorphic animals. While this is true, it turned out to be so much more – the rich detail and world-building reminded me of REDWALL and the in-depth characters and humour made me think of THE BLACKTHORN KEY. Leung wowed me with her debut novel – add her to your auto-buy list!

Leung really brings Camelot – the court of the legendary King Arthur – to life. I didn’t just imagine a castle with mice dressed in armour, I saw a court of dedicated knights (mice, larks, squirrels), I could taste the food (elderberry wine, soup served in hollowed-out acorns), and I could feel the setting (i.e. sea breeze). This retelling is set during King Arthur’s reign, and while there are similarities between the humans and the animals sworn to protect Camelot, Leung gives the main characters their own past, present and future. Something I absolutely loved, becoming a knight (for the animals) is not gender-specific (something we usually see in historical and/or fantasy books) and there’s no mention of “why is this character becoming a page/squire/knight, she’s a girl” nonsense. The Second-in-Command (and later Commander) is Sir Kensington, a female mouse. We did see a bit of this with the humans. King Arthur is away, so Queen Guinevere proposes a plan to defeat the enemy and the Knights of the Round Table basically refuse to listen to her. One might argue it’s because she didn’t have the sword in the stone – the knights will listen to anyone who pulls it out – but the fact that they’d rather listen to a 12 year old boy (age may be wrong) who’d pulled out the sword rather than an adult was slightly annoying and maybe even unnecessary.

Calib Christopher was a very likeable character, I could immediately get into his head. He’s one of those characters who’s shy, doesn’t have a lot of confidence in himself and just needs that extra push to realize he is brave and smart. Calib being a likeable character didn’t make him stand out though, he felt a bit like an insert-yourself character, which I’m not the hugest fan of. This sort of character, while easily likeable, doesn’t completely challenge the reader.

Most of the chapters are in Calib’s POV but we also see the perspective of the humans. Told through a 12 year old boy, Galahad comes to Camelot to become a page or squire (can’t remember which). He’s the son of Sir Lancelot, who he’s never met, so there’s a lot of pressure and expectations on him. Galahad wasn’t my favourite character – he struck me as a bit of a stereotype. Luckily, chapters with Galahad were shorter than Calib’s, although it was funny to see how the humans reacted when they witnessed odd animal behaviour. I did like that Leung tries to balance out the male-dominated POV’s by introducing Cecily as a main character and someone who helps Calib save Camelot. She was a fun, bold character. Also, the names were the best thing ever and really helped with the world-building (ex. Sir Owen Onewhisker, Devrin Savortooth, General Gaius Thornfeather).

There are some underlying themes of prejudice and discrimination. In the beginning, the animals of Camelot and the Darklings (animals living in nearby woods) are enemies, despite the truce between them. Rumours surrounding the Darklings have basically taken on a life of its own. I loved that as the book progressed, Leung presents a different side to these animals. This isn’t too prominent, you really have to be looking for it, but it’s something that could be discussed more in the sequel. However, I would have liked to see the POV of the Saxons and weasels, and maybe less of the adding physical traits with negative connotations to the enemy i.e. rotten teeth.

While I found the plot a bit predictable, maybe because I’m familiar with this sort of archetype, MG readers will be delighted at the sort of plot twists Leung lays out for them. A TAIL OF CAMELOT is a must-have for MG readers and I cannot wait to read the sequel. Perfect for fans of REDWALL, this is a great book for introducing readers to historical fantasy and the myth of King Arthur and Camelot.

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Book Review: Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane

23111784Alice in Wonderland High

Rachel Shane

3.5/5 stars

Release Date: April 18, 2015

Publisher: Merit Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists whose cringeworthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmers’ market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speak out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground—a.k.a. secret society—of Wonderland High.

Curiouser and curiouser. Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good-girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz—a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will really turn Alice’s world backwards. But then one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury that’s screaming, “Off with her head!”

Review:

So I actually read this book back in early 2016, but I found some old journals of mine and I’ve been writing mini-reviews on books I read some time ago based on notes in those journals. This review is shorter than my usual ones but I still wanted to share it. I think it’s good to bring back backlist titles every now and then. There are so many books published each year, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss a few.


ALICE IN WONDERLAND HIGH was an enjoyable read, with writing I immediately connected with and a good retelling of Alice in Wonderland, something we haven’t quite seen before in YA. I loved the protagonist Alice, she was smart and likeable, but also flawed. I also loved the other characters, they were an entertaining bunch – funny and mysterious! I wasn’t quite into the plot, I think the book was a bit underwhelming in that sense. The plot was solid but I wasn’t 100% into it.

I think when it comes to retellings I might stick to fantasy, I just prefer that over contemporary. I recommend this for YA contemporary readers looking for a solid retelling.

I did love the slight reference to Neverland at the end, that was really intriguing. I loved thinking about how my favourite characters from Peter Pan were retold in the author’s book world!

Book Review: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

tinaconnollySeriously Wicked

Tina Connolly

4/5 stars

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one.

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose—and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Now Cam’s suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch…will that mean she’s wicked too?

Review:

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly is such a fun and original take on magic and witches in the modern world – I loved this from start to finish! I can’t wait to read the next book, it’s a very entertaining and well-written series.

I loved Cam and immediately connected with her. Her sense of humour was perfect for this story and this book was so well-written! On the surface, there’s lots of humour and fun but at the same time, there’s some serious character development. I loved that the author was able to weave those two things together. The serious side of this book I wasn’t expecting (a pleasant surprise) and it’s one of the main reasons I’m continuing onto the next book.

I was also happy with the fact that no romance occurred between Cam and the demon living inside Devon’s body, which was something I half expected and was worried about. Considering the demon is trying to destroy Devon’s soul (so as to remain on earth permanently) it’d be a bit problematic. There was romance between Cam and Devon which I found super cute and awkward (first loves/crushes) – and I loved every moment of it.

I think teens who were adopted or are really conflicted/unsure about their place in their family will find solace in this book. Cam was adopted and ends up confronting her adopted mother, the “Wicked Witch”. Their relationship has so many cracks, especially when it concerns Cam’s adoption. Seriously Wicked is told in Cam’s POV and it ends up being a case of an unreliable narrator because even though Cam wholeheartedly believes she was adopted, the Wicked Witch says the opposite. This was one of the more serious aspects of the book and a very important thing for Cam and her mother to overcome.

This is great for contemporary readers who want a bit of magic in their lives and fantasy readers who are in the mood for something light and funny. I recommend this series for those wanting humour, heart and a diverse cast of characters.