Reviewed by Richard Bunning
We reach the top of the climb, having started up the `spiritual’ mountain of Newland’s metaphysical creation in the first book in the Diamond Peak series. Life’s path is never easy for anyone if they are to fulfil their potential, the greater our gifts the more that others’ normally expect us to give. So it is with the heroine, Ariel. In the end, this was not so much of the story of Ariel’s struggle to conquer the blackness threatening her and the lives of those she cared about, but rather about her determination to help the `all’ of humanity. The serpentine Ariel has to destroy is just as binding in landscape we all know as it is on her mythical mountain; a massive peak which seemingly buds from some part of urban Australia. There is a true moral theme, the idea of a saviour, the dream of resetting the clock back on all corrupting evil. This work draws on the powerful allegory of writers like C.S. Lewis, whilst remaining free of his well chiselled, establishment, religious tow.
This is a superb read, in which for me the true peak of creativity was in the all too brief return of Ariel to the `real’ world. In this section we are rewarded by glimpsing the very dark childhood shadows from which Nick, Ariel’s ever closer friend, had to emerge. Of course, the fulfilling of the prophecy was most certainly the summit of excitement. Perhaps the `homecoming’ chapter had a particular resonance for me as it brought to the fore the inventive speculative fiction angle of the book to a degree not seen since the opening chapters of book one.
In my opinion, a perfect rounding of Newland’s `Diamond Peak’ project would be an omnibus addition, an amalgam of all four books in one fat volume. This would allow a huge amount of stripping of retold background and re-established character traits. Going over old ground in each book of the series is so necessary to readers’ understanding in any true serial with a defined `quest’. All four of these books work very well as standalone reads. However, written as one script of perhaps 300,000 words, even if still split into `books’, this could become a modern classic of YA fantasy.
Reviewed by Evie Woolmore
June 16, 2013
This second volume in Tahlia Newland’s YA series picks up just where the first volume, A Lethal Inheritance,
The will-they-won’t-they of Nick and Ariel’s relationship is well written, and we see the situation from both sides. Ariel worries, as many girls her age do, that having a boyfriend will distract her from what she needs to do to succeed, but will also turn her into someone who is less able to focus on what’s important because they are always worrying about how they look. In Ariel’s case, Newland makes it easy to sympathise with her worry about being distracted – rescuing their mother is the most important goal anyone might have – but she also shows well how contradictory our feelings can be, when we are inching into a new relationship. Nick himself is confused about how he feels, managing the conflict in his own feelings and his life before Ariel with the tension she brings. He wants to impress her, protect her, look after, but he also is overwhelmed at times by how she makes him feel. Often YA fiction sees things from only the girl’s point of view, so this is a welcome addition to the novel.
This novel has a much stronger romantic element to it than the first volume but it doesn’t overshadow what is, once again, a well-driven, well-plotted voyage through well-drawn, well-imagined worlds. Twitchet, the talking cat, is wonderfully expressed, and although the sage Walnut is absent for the first part of the novel, Twitchet more than makes up for his absence in his cleverness and his mischief. There are new friends and enemies made, and some whose allegiance is not clear. Tension is steadily built as the novel progresses and we also learn more of the metaphysical vision of this world, of how infectious darkness and self-doubt can be, and how compelling and difficult to escape too. It is impossible to talk in any detail about the plot without giving it away, but suffice to say after a steady beginning, life gets increasingly more complicated and Ariel must test herself again and again and again.
If you enjoyed the first volume of the series then this will not disappoint and will leave you eagerly anticipating the next stage of their journey.
Reviewed by Richard Bunning
Great stuff! I would suggest reading Lethal Inheritance first, though it is certainly not essential. This really is a pure fantasy book, written with an older teenager as the target audience. I’m 57, and don’t really believe that I would have enjoyed it any more or less at 17.
I didn’t like it quite as much as the first book. This is mainly because I’m eager to reach the end of the quest, thus find the middle somewhat of a frustration. The books overall quality is top draw, with a good pace and easy style. Unsurprisingly, some of the fantasy elements are very familiar to anyone that has read any of the genre but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good deal of originality as well.
We can see all the classical elements of the moral quest, the long road searching for the magic that will allow evil to be defeated. The dark forces are embedded in the suffocating, black serpentine. Ariel, the heroine is growing in skill, becoming immersed in the magic of her inheritance, whilst fighting her instincts to run, or fall into the strong arms of her worldly lover, or even to sink into the smothering, beguiling, evil. Arial is as determined to defeat the Rasama as I am to reach the end of book three. I don’t think Ariel really found anything but frustration in this difficult middle road either, all sorts of frustrations in her case, especially when this book started with her realising that her personal quest had so far failed.
I really need to move on from Sheldra, and Arial and Nick really need to get together with the job done. There are so many cravings that need ending, so Tahlia Newland, please don’t keep us waiting too long. Don’t give the serpentine over much time to grow, or else Arial will need a forth book in order to bring things to a head. Would Newland do that to us?
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
Stalking Shadows is the second book in Tahlia Newland’s Diamond Peak series.
It picks up right after the ending of book one, so really should be read in order. Having said that, the book could still be enjoyed (if a little confusing in parts) even if you hadn’t read the first.
This one didn’t seem as smooth as the first. There were passages that overwhelmed me in a spirituality sense, too much focus on inner light and radiance. There were only a few points where this happened, but it was enough to pull me out of the story.
The adventure was just as exciting as the first book, with intricate twists and turns sporadically placed so as to keep the reader guessing.
I look forward to seeing the relationships between the characters grow in the next book in the series.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***
Reviewed by DL Morrese
February 7, 2013
This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.
It’s an interesting place.
This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss, who recruits him as his new getaway driver. For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.
This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.
The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.
It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.
Reviewed by Richard Bunning
This is a good comic fantasy title off the same sort of humorous planet as writers like Tom Holt, Ben Elton, and Terry Prachett. There is satire and certainly parody, and as with those listed she has the gift of dramatic timing. In other words, MT McGuire is in great, Great British, comic company. The fact that she used to do stand-up comedy doesn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m sure it helps to be a Brit to catch all the clever turns of phrase in this book, but those from once were distant outposts of Britannia will get just as much out of this read; even The ‘us’ should be able to catch the crest of her comic wave.
Of course, if you are not into Peter Cook, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig, or MT McGuire Authorholic then you probably won’t like K’Barthan books either. Get a life!
November 13, 2012
Lethal Inheritance is an action-packed YA fantasy adventure. The action and tension in the story start quickly with the abduction of Ariel’s mother by a demon, and her own narrow escape, followed by her quest to rescue her mother. She is guided by knowledgeable and likeable characters who teach her ways to learn self-control and master physical and mental techniques to find and overcome the demon who kidnapped her mother, Nadima. Along the way on this journey of self-discovery, she and her companions / guides meet with various adventures and a variety of the demon’s minions, leading to plenty of action, great interaction between the characters themselves, and a bit of romance. Most of the story is told from Ariel’s point of view, but in other places, the point of view switches to one of her companions, Nick.
Reading this story reminded me of two other books in particular (both very good ones): Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks, because that also has a young female protagonist hunting a demon and other similarities, and The Lord of the Rings, because of the fantasy quest and the good against evil theme. However, Lethal Inheritance has a unique blend of spirituality, philosophy and magical realism (or realistic magic) that the author has used to great effect in other books such as You Can’t Shatter Me. It is these elements that make the story different and engaging to read.
The book was a fun read, seamlessly layered with philosophical themes adding depth to the adventure, with engaging characters and evil antagonists, a bit of humour and romance and great action sequences.
Lethal Inheritance is the first of a series, and I look forward to reading the others.
Reviewed by Richard Bunning
May 11, 2015
Putting on young shoes, this is definitely a 5 star. Slopping in my comfy middle-aged slippers, this is definitely a 5 star. The writing is every bit as good as any hunk of Rowling’s fantasy, and if anything the plot has more originality. I have to admit to being a bit of a long-term fan of books that can mysteriously pluck me from everyday life and plunge me into the realms of fantasy. The escape into otherness, away from this all too real existence, to weird places that night’s illusions so often strive to go, is done very well in “Lethal Inheritance”.
If we wish we can explain everything as delusion, or the stuff of nightmare, or of chemical concoction, possibly as shadows on the edge of perception, or simply consider this fantasy as metaphor for some deep, private, spirituality. I can’t be bothered to dwell for long on such particulars, preferring to just get on with enjoying a very good tale told very well. Newland effortlessly draws us out of a suburban bedroom window to follow Ariel on the quest demanded by her destiny. Mental strength is the key to success, belief in one’s self, the learning to live with one’s fears and succeed despite them. The Serpentine, the snaking “river” of evil, may well have flowed into Australia through a gap in understanding that separates the land of “Dreamtime” from “La Serpentine” Mountain in the distant European Alps. Certainly the story, the invention, comes from a breadth of cultural mythology as wide as the physical distances between the Earth’s diverse landscapes. We all have to fight the snaking terrors that pollute life, some are fantasy and some real. Newland had my attention, possibly spellbound, held down by the demons, to the very last words, and now I have a sequel nipping at my ankle like a gimp. I don’t thing anyone is ever tot old and not for long too young,to enjoy this fantasy. We have romance, the swish of swords, the light of wands, the chill of fear, heroes and heroines, monsters in the dark, and always a connection to the city we know, just down the hill.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
I can’t post my review here because it has gifs in it. If you want to see my review: click here