Tag Archives: Ellen Renner

Storm Witch

Ellen Renner’s description of Storm and her mother returning home in her new book Storm Witch took me straight back to my own childhood and the home where I lived with my mother. I have as good a memory of that time as can be expected at my age, but I have never before had that exact feeling conveyed in a piece of writing.

People sometimes ask if the writing in a book is good, and I don’t always know. This time though, I can tell you it is very good writing. I feel as if Ellen gave me back something I’d lost.

Ellen Renner, Storm Witch

Storm is 13 and it’s time for her age group to be chosen by the island’s Elementals. They determine what the young person will be doing for the rest of their life. It’s the usual drama; you fear you won’t be chosen at all, or that it will be the wrong choice, or that you will disappoint your family. Storm does too, and then she’s chosen by more than one of the Elements.

Being special isn’t much fun, either. And it doesn’t prevent the bullying. You might be the most powerful person on the island, but your bully still hates you.

The story is a mix of the normal childhood feelings most of us have, and then there is the magic, and the difficult tasks Storm has to tackle.

There are more books to come. I can guess at where Ellen will take her characters. I’ll be interested to see if I’m right.

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Good, better, best

2015 is a rare year. Its best book happens to be my third best book ever. So no contest as to who sits at the top of the Bookwitch Best of 2015 Books list. It’s

Sally Gardner with her The Door That Led to Where. Among many stunning books, this is the stunningest of them all. The Door That Led to Where is a novel that has it all, to my mind. Just getting it out to look at again as I write this, I feel all twitchy.

It is red. Perhaps that is a sign I can re-read it over Christmas? It’s been almost a year. (And on a different note, I was pleased to see Sally’s book finally reviewed in the Guardian this weekend. High time indeed. And I’m not the only one to think so.)

Sally Gardner, The Door That Led To Where

So, now that this obvious choice has been announced, I come to the rest. Eight books stand out as having been that little bit more ‘stand-outy’ than others. They are books that made me feel all warm inside as I read them. (Apart from Helen Grant’s book which made my blood go cold. In a good way.)

These warm ones are, in alphabetical order:

Stephen Davies, Blood & Ink

Helen Grant, Urban Legends

Andy Mulligan, Liquidator

Sally Nicholls, An Island of Our Own

Andrew Norriss, Jessica’s Ghost

Ellen Renner, Outcaste

Jenny Valentine, Fire Colour One

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove White Raven

On the longlist were another 25 books, so the tip of the iceberg was pretty big. But the point of a best of list is that it is a litte bit short.

Thank you to all who wrote these, my bestest books of the year. You make a difference.

Outcaste

This is so good. Outcaste is the impatiently – by me anyway – awaited sequel to Ellen Renner’s Tribute. I’m not sure how Ellen does it, but she certainly knows how to write a marvellous story.

Ellen Renner, Outcaste

Set in a fantasy world, Zara has been forced to leave her home, a place where magic rules, and she is now a refugee along with several groups of non-magic people. Being a mage is not good, and Zara needs to work hard at hiding her natural talents.

Her father, the Archmage is wanting to catch her, after she tried to kill him. But sometimes it’s not the people with magic who are the worst. It seems some of the other peoples have traditions that are not terribly attractive either. The refugees are heading to the homeland of Aidan, the boy she has fallen in love with. And her problems won’t necessarily be over when she gets there.

Outcaste is not a book you can easily describe. It’s a book you want to read. Now. (But read Tribute first.) It has a love story to die for (not that you want anyone to die), and that in itself is rare enough these days.

I’ll be thinking of that love as I wait for another book from Ellen, be it another sequel or something else. Anything else. This is what YA should be like. And in Zara’s friend Twiss, we have a young girl character of almost Dido Twite-ish proportions. I would very much like to see more of her.

Best of 2014

I was about to say that whereas I had told myself I’d go for fewer books on my best list of the year (best books, not best list) this time, it has proved too hard to do. But then I discovered I managed to slim the list last year, so I have a bit of credit and I can let the list swell. Because I must.

Can’t even offer you a photogenic pile of best books, with most of them still hiding in boxes. Besides, one of the best comes on Kindle, and the Resident IT Consultant’s e-reader isn’t the prettiest of things to take a picture of.

2014 was a good year for series of books coming to an end, be it the two-pack type or the trilogy or the ten-pack. I decided not to put those on The List, but I am happy to mention them.

They are Timothée de Fombelle with Vango 2, Caroline Lawrence with the fourth book about Detective Pinkerton, Derek Landy at the end of his ten book Skulduggery Pleasant marathon, Lucy Hawking and the fourth book about George in space, Gennifer Choldenko and the last Al Capone story, Deborah Ellis about Parvana again, Teri Terry’s dystopia had as satisfying an end as you could hope for, Gillian Philip finally finished her faeries in Icefall, and Che Golden sorted her fairies out too.

Helen Grant and Eoin Colfer did beautifully with their second books from Belgium and time travel London, so there is more to look forward to there.

Two authors are standing shoulder to shoulder on my awards stand this year; Michelle Magorian and Nick Green. Michelle for Impossible! and Nick with his Firebird ebook trilogy.

The runners-up are – in no particular order – Ali Sparkes and Destination Earth, Sally Nicholls and Shadow Girl, Cliff McNish and Going Home, Tanya Landman and Buffalo Soldier, Ellen Renner and Tribute, Simon Mason and Running Girl, Carl Hiaasen and Skink No Surrender, Robin Talley and Lies We tell Ourselves.

Thank you everyone, for hours and hours of good company, and please keep up the good work!

Tribute

Tribute is a terrific new fantasy novel by Ellen Renner. It’s another one for my best-of list in December, and I’m so excited I don’t know what to do about waiting for the sequel. There has been no mention of a sequel, but there has to be one. And in my opinion Ellen should be a household name. She obviously is in this household, but I would like her to be really famous. And rich. Not that I imagine she could write faster with more money, but still.

A Tribute is a slave belonging to a Mage, and Zara was given Swift when she was a child, and then her father, the Archmage, killed her Tribute when they became too friendly. Her revenge was to join the resistance, the Knowledge Seekers, giving them information about the ruling Mages.

Ellen Renner, Tribute

As with so many magical settings, it doesn’t help that a character can do all sorts of magic, like entering the mind of animals – and sometimes of people – flying, and so on. Because whatever you can do, someone else can do to you. And the Archmage is more than happy to do the most unspeakable things, which is why Zara hates him.

When her father takes a hostage from another group of people, Zara ends up needing to do a lot more. She has to break with the Mages and go against her own people and join forces with the others, where not all are sympathetic to a Mage joining them.

This is civil war, it is slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. It is very cruel. But it is also a tale of friendship and trust across boundaries between different people. It’s very exciting, and not everything has been resolved by the end of the book. Hence my impatience.

(On the other hand, I would also like to see another Castle book, so…)

(Once I’d stopped moaning quite so much, I discovered that there is a sequel titled Outcaste coming in August. It looks like August this year. Yippee!!)

A fascination with graveyards and death

I will have to have words with Mr Google. Crosby Civic Hall just isn’t where he said it’d be. It’s also ‘quite easy’ to walk past, hidden by greenery. Which is nice. The greenery, not so much the extra walk, although I suppose it might have done me good.

What did do me good was the fabulous Sefton Super Reads event yesterday in Waterloo (I have finally seen the Waterloo of Cosmic fame!) Once Ellen Renner had given up trying to make me believe it was July, when it actually was June, I quickly chatted up Tony Higginson of Pritchards bookshop fame, and the kind man said what a great idea it’d be if I came. So I came, after giving up on Mr Google’s ideas.

Tony Higginson, Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner at Sefton Super Reads

Zoe and Tony at Sefton Super Reads

Sefton Super Reads with Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner

They had an incredibly strong shortlist comprising Mary Hooper, Ellen Renner and Jon Mayhew, who were all present, and also Eleanor Updale, Andy Mulligan and Ally Kennen, who weren’t. It’s fantastic that so many could be there, and I’m pleased that I managed to escape the – frankly ridiculous – idea that I pose for a photo with Ellen, Mary and Jon. Tony did that so much better. (I thought I hadn’t met him before. But I had. He was at the Plaza last month, also chatting with Elvis. Small world.)

Sefton does a brisk and informal awards ceremony, with brief introductions to the books, a Q & A where the schools who took part in the reading and voting got to ask questions of Jon and Mary and Ellen.

Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner at Sefton Super Reads

Running out of ideas is not generally a problem. Time to write all those potential books is. Both Mary and Jon are fascinated by graveyards and death and both their books feature professional mourners as main characters. The books are also set in much the same sort of (Victorian) time, as is Ellen’s Castle of Shadows. In fact, more than half the shortlist is historical, suggesting young readers like what’s old, as well as what’s dead.

Mary Hooper

Mary takes a year to write a book, and if Jon didn’t have to do all sorts of other things like paid work, he’d write lots of books in a year. Ellen disappointed us by saying her third novel won’t be coming next year. Jon stops the car to write down ideas. Hopefully only if driving while getting them.

Ellen Renner

One very sneaky question was what they thought of the competition and whether they had read each other’s books. They were pretty adept at admitting to having read less than the teenagers present, but complimented the others. And like me, both Jon and Ellen had had Mary’s Fallen Grace waiting in the tbr pile for some time. (I dealt with it by reading on the train…)

Jon Mayhew wins Sefton Super Reads

Then it was straight onto the announcement that Jon Mayhew had won with Mortlock. With so many wonderful books I was just grateful that it was one of the authors present who won. It feels so much better that way. But as with choosing who your favourite child is, there’s no way I was going to pick a favourite among the shortlisted novels.

After Jon’s admirably short thank you speech, which he may or may not have written (or thought about) in advance, I could see Mrs M eyeing the trophy with a view to dusting it and possibly arranging for a special trophy room at home if hubby is going to keep this winning streak going.

Reviews of Sparks at Sefton Super Reads

Drinks at Sefton Super Reads

Before the local school children could stampede towards the waiting refreshments, their reviewing labours were rewarded with book tokens. They had written some very good reviews and I especially enjoyed hearing about the teenager who had developed bird phobia after Mortlock. (Well, who hasn’t?)

Prize winners at Sefton Super Reads with Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner

Tony Higginson at Sefton Super Reads

The osmotic (his own choice of word) Tony provided the book tokens and ran the bookselling and took photos and told us about the great future events he is organising. That’s what booksellers should be like!

Jon Mayhew, Ellen Renner and Mary Hooper at Sefton Super Reads

There was book signing and queues and photographs, and it was hard to see the authors for the crowds. But that’s as it should be.

When everything had been said and done, I marched off towards Waterloo station, and found that I could see the sea. Lovely. I must return. And Waterloo does funny minutes. At times they last for ages, and at times they pass so fast they have to rewind and do the same minutes again. Weird, but interesting.

Spend for Japan

Please hand over your money. Author Keris Stainton set the ball rolling some time at the weekend, when she came up with the idea for an author based auction for Japan. She asked all author friends to donate something of theirs to be auctioned to help people in Japan.

Authors for Japan

Personally I had rather hoped for the opportunity to bid for an author, but even without that very attractive option, there are some nice things to bid for. Books by the dozen, obviously. Signed, obviously. Advice and courses and things.

I briefly had my eye on Ellen Renner’s picture of Charlie, but that was already out of my comfort zone when I got there. And on the whole, that is good. Let’s hope it moves much further out of my reach.

Tommy Donbavand will let me be a character in his book. I think that would suit me very well, actually. Didn’t dare see how high the bids were for that. You could have Katie Fforde be frank and fearless with you, which sounds very, very, well, nice. And frank. And fearless.

I could be mentored by Lisa Clark. Or I could be a Sarra Manning character. Though I dare say I’d fit better in Tommy’s horror setting. Maybe name a future Gillian Philip character?

And there is much more where these came from, which is Authors for Japan. In fact, there is nothing to stop you from bidding on every single item. You have until Sunday at 8pm, and I think that’s GMT.

When I first heard about the auction I got so carried away that I wanted to donate something. But I’m no author and I don’t think it’s possible to donate a blog.

So to make up for that shortcoming, please spend.