Category Archives: cats

STARFELL. Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom

by Dominique Valente;  

An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Cat Princess©

 

Reviewing is such hard work!

Hello, and welcome to my Saturday Book Review featuring adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction!

This week we are sparking with joy to share with you the third and latest book featuring Willow Moss and her iracund kobold monster in the green bag (sometimes under the bed and certainly NOT a cat) feline-like companion, Oswin.

But first, by popular request of the village paperboy, Eccles McKnees, so he can have a lay in this week, is……. 

The UMM VILLAGE NEWS. (Delivered hands-free online. This edition  is kindly sponsored by Mrs Singh’s International Food Emporium – Authentic International Fast food, delivery by Jumbo the Elephant.)

In the Front page. Following on from PC Beatworn’s request last week for info about twenty missing hair dryers, he issued a press release on Tuesday to confirm he is following up on some leads he’s received. Alas, news in this morning from the saloon bar of the Pied Sparrow Public House, seems to indicate that there were no fingerprints on the 13Amp plugs attached to the leads. 

In the Sports News. Upper Much-Mousing’s new seniors football team, The Wobbly Wanderers, have made it home from their first (and I suspect last) away match. Apparently, the week-long delay was caused by the driver, Paulo, getting stuck on a Midland’s ring road whilst looking for the much-famed eatery called Spaghetti Junction. 

In the Wanted Column. The vicar has put out a call for villagers to play parts in this year’s upcoming version of Richard Whittington. Apparently, I, as a cat, am excluded from applying as I am, seemingly, too much like a cat! That’s the last time I water his begonias!

Also in the wanted column is a request from the WI for additional members for the WI’s Inter-County Contact Yoga Team. If you are wondering what that is, just think of a rugby scrum crossed with some zen karma, lycra and panpipes.

And finally. . . .

In Breaking NEWS: Hot from the village’s only FAX machine (discovered last week buried in my study) and slightly blurred by Mrs H’s spilt coffee and a dollop of thick-cut marmalade, is news of two break-ins in the early hours of this morning. 

The first alarm went off at the village’s new designer tea rooms, Bags2Brew2You. Nothing was taken though many items of crockery had been smashed. The next break-in occurred next door some ten minutes and much clattering later, at Mrs Hornrim’s Opticians. Two pairs of glasses are missing and presumed stolen. 

Given the seriousness of the current crime spree, Detective Sergeant Sid Warrant from CSI Deeping-Mire has been in attendance and is looking studiously into the matter. Apparently, he made a good start by being fitted with a new pair of horn-rim diamante varifocals – guaranteed by Mrs Hornrim to read a car licence plate from 500 yards and read the warranty on Dicky Dans dodgy used goods – or your money back!

OK, with the news and small ads sorted, let’s get on with the review!

The Magic is growing.

STARFELL. Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom, by DOMINIQUE VOLENTE

Published by HarperCollins.

Cover artwork by Sarah Warburton

Hardback ISBN: 978 – 0 – 00 – 830847 – 6  

Paperback ISBN: 978 – 0 – 00 – 830848 – 3 

Trade paperback ISBN: 978 – 0 – 00 – 837715 – 1

Cover price for Hardback £12.99, Paperback £7.99 (or cheaper)

SPOILER ALERT

As ever, to review book three in this series, we need to reveal elements of the first two books. So, if you do want to read those first two, please do turn away. . . . NOW!

Or, to see my reviews of books one and two, follow the links below.

Book 1 review: STARFELL. Willow Moss on the Lost Day.

Book 2 review: STARFELL. Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale. 

The Plot: 

Willow is heading to school. Not just any school but one that now accepts magical children into its classes. Usually, this would all seem very inclusive. But Willow is suspicious. Up unto this point, the schools, which are controlled by the Brothers of Wol, have wanted nothing to do with magical folk. In fact, they have done everything to push magic as far out of the kingdom as possible.

But, the wizard, Silas, has managed through magic to get himself in charge of the brotherhood. Worse still, he has somehow managed to convince the magical folk of the Enchancil (the magic council) to send their kids to school. To Willow, this just doesn’t seem possible, let alone credible. Her parents and the council seem to have forgotten the evil Silas and the brotherhood have done. 

To find out more, Willow heads to school. She instantly is considered dangerous and scares the kids and the teacher. Just when the teacher thinks things couldn’t get worse than having a witch pupil, another arrives in the form of an elf child called Twist Howling. Twist, who controls the icy Northwind, comes in a literal mini tornado and creates more havoc as the classroom is turned upside down. Once the class settles, the teacher opens the new coursework sent by the Brothers of Wol. Suddenly, and most suspiciously, he is all confident.

Placing a chalk X on the classroom door, he instructs the pupils to open their new books. This reveals the Brother’s plans — to teach the magical and non-magical kids alike that magic is evil and wrong. Worse still, the X on the door is magic and will cause all the kids to go home happy and content and help dissuade them from using magic again. Effectively it is brainwashing! 

Not only that, Willow and company discover that Silas is working on a way to strip the magic from all magical beings in Starfell! The kids are just the first stage in a monstrous plan which will elevate Silas to the status of a god. Well, in his eyes at least, and who would be left to oppose him if they are all subdued???

All Silas needs to complete his plan is the ‘elf staff’, a powerful magical staff that belonged to the queen of the vanished elf kingdom of Llandunia. The staff could give, or take away, the magic of anyone or thing. But the kingdom and staff disappeared at the end of the last magic war to save Starfell. Nobody living knows their whereabouts. That is no living human or elf. Silas has pinched an old elf manuscript that is supposed to reveal the whereabouts of the kingdom. 

So, knowing this, Willow, Twist, Oswin, and Peg – the only non-magical kid in the class who’s not afraid of the magic – must set off to find what is lost and really doesn’t want to be found. But can they escape the classroom and the enchanted handcuffs the school teacher is intent on shackling our heroes with?!

OK, I could easily give away so much here as the adventure does literally take off and becomes a classic race between good and evil. So that is where I must leave you to discover for yourselves what happens to our heroine and her companions.

So, what did we think?

Brilliant! Willow’s adventures keep on getting better and better. This is the best story to date, and the first two were excellent, as I am sure you recall me saying. It really had Mrs H, and me hooked. I even got Mrs H up early to light the fires and make breakfast so she could come back to bed and read the closing chapters to me this morning.

It really ROCKS in more ways than one. And dear Oswin, the so very much like but not a cat Kobold, has a really great adventure too, and a not so welcome but funny reunion.

The best books do have an underlying theme, and I am sure you would agree on reading that the morals of this story are nicely woven into it. It is all too easy for adults to forget that we need to learn about the rights and wrongs of things. And understand the value of friendships and the smallest of gifts or talents that might not seem much, especially when compared to others.

Add to this the interior and cover artwork by the very talented Sarah Warburton, and you have an excellent all-around sense of everything that makes this series so worthwhile.

Inside front cover . . .

Inside front cover of hardback.

And inside back cover. 

Inside back cover of hardback.

So . . . . 

Crunch time. 

There is no crunch in this adventure unless you count the many trolls and fierce dragons. So, if you know someone who would like this in their stocking this year, and there is really no upper age limit to that, then do consider getting a copy. There you have it. There is nothing more to add, except that book four is due next year, so there is a lot to look forward to. We, all being well, will review this as soon as we can. 

Till then, please do come back for more Adventures in Middle-Grade reading. 

Hang on!

But why not experiment yourselves? Browsing through an actual book shop is so much fun, and some even have sofas and serve food and tea! You don’t need an excuse to be there either, and the shop assistants are usually only too pleased to advise and steer you to the hot reads and new releases. If you find a book that you would recommend, then please share it with us. After all, the gifts of reading and sharing are as important and magical as the worlds of the authors in which we lose ourselves and meet the likes of Oswin and Willow.

Want to buy a copy?

To add some magic into the life of someone you know, then head to the real kingdom of literary magic, your local independent bookshop, before they, too, vanish. 

Dominique Volente’s web page can be found HERE

Harper Collins Chidrens web page can be found HERE. 

If any authors, publishers or agents wish us to review their books, please do get in touch. Details are listed on our book review page.

Till laters!

ERin