YA Review: Seafire

Title: Seafire
Author: Natalie C Parker

How has it taken me so long to find this book? Pirates, rebels, sea battles and survival with an awesome all-female crew – I loved it.

Caledonia Styx is the leader of a crew of girls who fight back against Aric Athair’s ruthless pirates. It feels as if everyone else on the seas and islands he controls has given up. They hand over their children to fight for him in exchange for their own lives. They keep his fleet supplied with everything he needs in order to keep themselves safe. Challenging his power would risk their lives, their homes, and their families, so they keep their heads down and survive instead.

But Caledonia has already lost everything – her family, her home, and her safety – to Aric’s pirates. She has built a crew of young women like herself, with nothing left to lose but each other, and she is determined to bring Aric down. Attacking his food barges, and the supply of the drug he uses to control his recruits, has hurt his operation enough to gain his attention. Her crew is a target for every ship under his command, and when she sails into a trap set by the pirates she is forced to reassess her attitude to Aric – and to his recruits. Will she break her own rules to save an enemy? Will she risk her crew for the sake of one of the pirates she fights, and for the information he offers?

This is a perfectly balanced story. Aric and his pirates are unquestionably bad – cruel, ruthless, and power-hungry. Caledonia is fighting for people like herself, and for a world where the pirates don’t abuse their power, and don’t control the sea. She is engaging Aric’s forces on their terms, fighting and killing if she has to, while remaining loyal to the crew she commands. She is certain of her mission and she feels responsible for the lives of everyone on her ship. Her aim is not to defend other people – her aim is to disrupt Aric’s operation and see an end to his power. She might be fighting for the good guys, but she’s a morally grey character – and that makes her a fascinating protagonist.

Add in her wonderful female crew, her ship with its intriguing technology, adventures on sea and on land, and her troublesome prisoner, and you have the ingredients for a gripping, fast-paced, addictive story. I couldn’t put the book down, and when I turned the final page I headed to Amazon immediately to download Book Two.

Have you read Seafire? What did you think of Caledonia’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Loki: Where Mischief Lies

Title: Loki: Where Mischief Lies
Author: Mackenzi Lee

Who was Loki before he became the character we know (and love!) from the Marvel Avengers films? What were his formative experiences? Mackenzi Lee gets to play with the family dynamics of a younger Loki, Thor, Frigga, and Odin in Where Mischief Lies, and it is evident that she is having a lot of fun in the process!

This is an engaging romp through Asgard and the Nine Realms, and Midgard in the shape of nineteenth century London. Dropping the god of mischief into a world that knows the myths and legends of his family but doesn’t believe in magic provides a perfect excuse for misunderstandings, unreliable bargains, new friendships and inevitable betrayals.

Loki’s task in London is to investigate a series of magical murders, with the help of a mysterious secret society. He’s already upset that Thor is proving himself to be the statesman and future king in the family, while he is sent to Midgard in disgrace. When he discovers the truth behind the secret society, and behind the murders, he has to decide whether his loyalties lie with Odin and Asgard, or with himself and the relationships he chooses.

This is an interesting glimpse behind the scenes of a character most readers will know from the Avengers films – untrustworthy, unpredictable, and out to cause mischief. The author is careful to show us who Loki was before he embraced this role – the jealousy of his relationship with Thor, his desperation to prove that he should be king instead of his brother, and his alienation in Asgard as he is required to subdue and hide his magical abilities. It’s a story about rejection, and being made to feel bad about who you are – and it’s story about redemption, and taking pride in your own strengths, even if your family wants you to follow a more conventional path. It’s a story about finding yourself and shrugging off the expectations of others.

And it’s a story about Loki, my favourite character from the Avengers story, who Mackenzi Lee brings to life beautifully on the page.

Have you read Where Mischief Lies? What did you think of Loki’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: The Upper World

Title: The Upper World
Author: Femi Fadugba

The Upper World is an intriguing time travel story that doesn’t quite stick its landing. The book combines ancient philosophy with hardcore maths and physics to explore the relationship between matter, energy, and perception. It takes the Socratic idea of the ‘Upper World’ – a place beyond our everyday experience where, if we can reach it, we can perceive time and space from the outside and find a deeper understanding of the workings of the universe. The characters use this knowledge to attempt to change the past, with unexpected consequences.

It is the characters who hooked me into the story. Esso is a believable teenager, navigating the gangs and complex loyalties of his South London comprehensive school alongside the expectations of his teachers and his West African mother. Fifteen years into the future, Rhia is juggling her unreliable home life in foster care with her ambition to become a professional football player. When she meets the maths and physics tutor her foster mother hired to help with her GCSEs, she finds herself diving into complex concepts – relativity, energy, and time travel. But why does Dr Esso think these ideas are important, and what, exactly, does he want from her?

The structure of the story builds the tension between the characters and the events they are trying to change. Esso’s present-day chapters alternate with Rhia’s future experiences. We know from early in the book that teenage Esso is heading for a dramatic, gang-related punishment, and as the story progresses he does everything he can to avoid disaster. In the future, Dr Esso’s interest in time travel starts to make sense, as Rhia begins to understand who she is, and her connection to her tutor’s past.

Rhia’s foster sister provides an effective sounding board for her theories, and the genuine friendship between the girls provides a contrast with teenage Esso’s companions – a group of boys who would rather taunt each other than show weakness. Esso’s relationship with his classmate Nadia allows him to demonstrate a softer side to his character, and her pivotal role in the story develops across both timelines. Both Esso and Rhia are sympathetic characters, and I found myself heartbroken alongside them when the plot twists and injustices kicked in.

While the climax of both stories is extremely well written, I wasn’t convinced by the plot leading up to the final moments. While I enjoyed the idea of weaving Einstein’s theories and the philosophy of Socrates and Plato into a YA time-travel narrative, the plot stretched the science and the philosophical ideas beyond breaking point, and this threw me out of the story.

I’m aware that I am not the target audience, and that I have read (and wrestled with the concepts of) a lot of time-travel stories. For YA readers with less exposure to maths, physics, science fiction, and the various fictional theories of time travel, The Upper World may well provide a gripping and satisfying read. If you don’t mind a bit of hand-waving and magical thinking with your real-world physics, this is an exciting story with clever twists, interesting ideas, sympathetic characters, and convincing real-world settings. If that sounds appealing, don’t let my review put you off!

The Upper World will be published on August 19th. Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read The Upper World? What did you think of the story? Did the science keep you hooked? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

The day after …

This the Taller Books team today. It’s been an amazing weekend of #AtHomeYALC events, and now we need to sleep off the exhaustion . . .

Massive thanks to Josie Jaffrey and AE Warren for joining Rachel for the self publishing workshop! You can still catch the 20-minute rundown of essentials for Indies on YouTube.

Hopefully we’ll be back in London for YALC 2022 – come and visit us on the Taller Books stand! It’s a brilliant event. Just make sure you bring book money, comfortable shoes, and plenty of strong bags for your book haul …

See you there!


This Friday, our newsletter will contain an absolutely BRILLIANT giveaway! Sign up now for your chance to win a paperback copy of Josie Jaffrey’s YA historical fantasy, The Wolf and the Water, plus a fantastic pin badge and bookmark, AND a signed paperback copy of Battle Ground, plus an orange camo buff-style scarf and official YALC Lanyard!

Sign up on the Free Book page at freebook.tallerbooks.com to join! As well as the giveaway, you’ll have the chance to download a completely FREE book in the award-winning Battle Ground Series, AND in a couple of weeks we’ll send you a bonus short story. You’ll be the first to hear our writing and publishing news, plus news and reviews from the world of YA publishing. We won’t spam you, and we won’t share your details with anyone else.

Don’t wait until Friday – we’ll send out the newsletter in the morning, with the instructions on how to enter. Sign up now, and you’ll be ready to enter when the email arrives!

Apologies to international readers – this giveaway is UK only – BUT we will be running international giveaways later in the year. Sign up for your chance to win!

Thank you!

A final huge THANK YOU to everyone who read, reviewed, bought, promoted, and supported Finding Fire and Other Stories at the launch last weekend.

We’ve had some amazing reviews, and the book hit number 77 in the Young Adult Survival Stories category on Amazon.co.uk!

Finding Fire and Other Stories is the final book in the Battle Ground Series. Find information about the series, and the FREE no-spoiler prequel, at battleground.tallerbooks.com

Don’t forget – if you’ve missed out on the rest of the series, you can download the FREE no-spoiler prequel, and pick up the bargain Books 1-3 Kindle box set – 3 books for the price of 2!