It’s a busy time for blog tours at the moment, and we’re off again – this time with Middle-Grade fantasy adventure Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan. My review will follow, but Shadow Magic is the first in what promises to be a riveting series set in a land ruled by six great Houses, where magic and mystery flourish and a powerful ruler can still be saved by a peasant boy.
More on that later (summary down below) but first, I’m thrilled to be hosting a piece by Joshua Khan, telling us all about his favourite and inspirational books – I know I’ve read a few on this list, but I’m definitely open to more recommendations!
THE HOBBIT by JRR Tolkien
My fav book of all time, by a long margin. Had this read to me at school during the summer when i was about 7. I remember the moment clearly, looking at the tree outside the half-open window. The story transported me and I don’t think I ever fully came back. It’s probably why I’m a writer.
BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly
The very grimmest of Grimm fairy tales. Connolly is famous for his Charlie Parker detective series (which has a healthy dose of supernatural too) but this is my fav. Boy gets transported into a magical realm to chase after the Crooked Man. Oh, the creepiest of stories! Managed to get my copy signed. Result!
THE COMPANY OF LIARS by Karen Maitland
Set during the years of the great plague, and the book absolutely drips with atmosphere. You really feel utterly part of the world. The story plays as strange historical fiction but the boundaries get increasingly blurred between what is natural and what is supernatural as the company travels.
JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Suzanne Clarke
Where to begin? Massive in scope, utterly absorbing in detail, rich in history. This is a fantasy world built with love, dedication and a huge amount of care. Deserves all the praise heaped upon it and, at last, fairies down well. Macabre, capricious and inhuman. Meddle with them at your peril. You must get through the first 200 pages though. The same applies to the tv series, the first episode and a half are rather dull, but thereafter, truly magical!
CONAN by RE Howard
Bloody, gutsy, full of passion and raw in delight. Even now no one writes pulse-pounding action the way Howard does. They are not subtle but like sitting round a campfire listening to the roar of an old warrior’s laugh as he tells you his life story. The writing’s not subtle, but it wouldn’t work if it was. It’s pure adventure!
ELRIC by Michael Moorcock
In a way the very opposite of Conan. Elric is a true anti-hero. Born an ruler of a dying empire, physically weak so dependent on drugs and (later) magic, sophisticated and conflicted, he is the Hamlet of fantasy fiction. An albino wearing black armour, dragon-riding and wielding the dreaded Stormbringer, the Elric stories are high fantasy with a string streak of nihilism. It does not end well for ANYONE. I read them when I was a moody teen, which explains a lot, but they have profoundly influenced my idea of what a hero can be and I don’t think Lily Shadow, the heroine of SHADOW MAGIC, would exist without Elric. She’s definitely related to the doomed prince.
NORTHERN LIGHTS by Phillip Pullman
I didn’t succumb to the Harry Potter craze. I wasn’t one of those adults reading him on the tube during the late 90s and early 2000’s. In fact I didn’t read Harry Potter until after I’d become a children’s writer. But a friend insisted I try Phillip Pullman. He leant me the first book and I left it on the shelves for months. But he’d ask if I’d read it every time we’d meet so eventually, just to avoid more embarrassment, I did. Once I realised what children’s books were capable of, I was determined to become a children’s writer.
MORTAL ENGINES by Philip Reeves
Probably my favourite children’s author. This is an epic steampunk series with motorised cities, terminators and a huge, rich world of wonder. I don’t know where to begin with this, but you will lose yourself in a setting that, for me, cannot be topped.
The tale starts off centred around Tom and Hester, one a boy working in London, and Hester driven by revenge. They are great by Shrike, the stalker (basically a terminator) begins to develop emotions, and he’s one of the greatest characters in modern fiction. The prequels you learn how he was made and there’s a shiver running through me just thinking about it. The world is complex, and violent. Characters die and very abruptly!
THE BLOODY CHAMBER by Angela Carter
This is a bit of a cheat as it’s a collection of short stories. It includes a Company of Wolves, the story that inspired one of my favourite films ever. So, we’ve got violent, creepy and romantic fairy tales from a feminist angle and we have werewolves. What’s not to love? If you love Carter can I recommend ‘Women who run with wolves’? It’s non-fiction, but similar-themed. It looks as the origins of many world myths and fairy tales as lessons in understanding a woman’s place in the cosmos. Utterly brilliant.
DUNE, by Frank Herbert
This book’s been tainted by the long and increasingly rambling books that followed it, but this remains untouchable in scope, inspiration and scale. Its influence on all the sci-fi that followed, especially Star Wars, cannot be overestimated. What appeals most in the non-European setting (in this case Arabic). When fantasy and sci-fi still struggle to add something (dare I say it?) more diverse in scope, Frank Herbert shows how its done, and this is way back in the 1960s. In its simplest form it’s the struggle between noble houses in the far, far future. Computers are long gone, and superhumans have evolved, such as the human computers called Mentats, swordmasters, and witches (the Bene Gesserit). The book centres around the rule of Arrakis, the planet nicknamed Dune, and the one place that produces spice, the drug that allows navigators to send ships across the vastness of the galaxy. The key player is Paul Atriedes, and his rise from noble scion, to outlaw to messiah.
Huge thanks to Joshua for taking the time out to tell us about some of his inspirations – having read Shadow Magic, you can really see some of the influences in the story.
Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
The blog tour is still ongoing, so please check out the #ShadowMagic hashtag for more reviews and unique author content.
Shadow Magic was released in paperback on 6th October by Scholastic.
I was sent a copy of Shadow Magic by the publisher in return for participating in the blog tour, and providing an honest review.