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 Awesome Indies Assessor
July 25, 2013
Demon’s Grip is the third (of four) books in the Diamond Peak series, and it is the best so far, both in terms of the action-packed storyline and the quality of the writing. I had the impression throughout the book that the main characters (Ariel and Nick) had grown up a bit since the previous book. This was probably because they were dealing with issues of greater importance (greed and craving, their developing romance, deceit and honesty and more besides). The emotions of the characters as they struggle with these is very well-portrayed, particularly with regards to addiction.The main story is counterpointed nicely with updates on the predicament of Nadima, Ariel’s mother, who is trapped in the demon’s lair (quite literally, at times, in its grip). The demon in question is developed as an important character in its own right, and the interactions between the demons themselves are quite amusing.It is more than a standard YA fantasy story, though; the characters’ internalisations and dialogue, and the progression of the plot itself, lead the reader to be more contemplative, even meditative, about the emotional issues involved. So it is certainly for readers who want greater depth in a novel.
Overall, a nicely-paced novel, well-written, with memorable characters and the chance, perhaps, to reflect more deeply on life while enjoying the story.
Reviewed by Clive S Johnson
A most exemplary work, a real joy to read. The colour, depth and vitality of both the writing and the narrative is stunningly good: the exploration of motives, outlooks and hopes of the characters quite intoxicating. It ranks as a true work of literary accomplishment.
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***
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
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January 18, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this short novel by Tahlia Newland to the extent that I chose to read it twice – and got even more from it the second time around. On the surface this is a story about high school teens – boy and girl becoming aware of one another, while outside that is the constant threat of bullying by an unhappy individual who knows no other way to escape his own, very real demon in the form of an abusive parent.
The way the story is written, with a strong magic realism aspect to it and emphatic underlying messages on morality: love, forgiveness, compassion and understanding, are a real treat, showing the force of faith in oneself and in others who may appear to be beyond redemption.
The writing is excellent, the dialogue natural, the settings totally appropriate for a story aimed at high school children. The thrust of the book is clear, the characters engaging and the story has a strong structure. It is exactly the sort of story schools should use to teach about the various aspects of bullying; how not only the victim but the bully can be helped and how it is so very important to look below the surface for the bully’s motivation.
Overall, a charming story about love and redemption that will appeal to more perceptive children of high school age and could be used to teach those somewhat less perceptive.
Review by Katt Pemble
I tossed up between a 3 and 4 star rating for this one. I went with a 4 as you can see. The reason I wasn’t sure was because I felt that the imagery and the fantasy aspect seemed a little too prominent within the story.
Hold up, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Tahlia has a very strong story here, the characters are realistic, honest and believable. Their reactions are true to being a teenager and the situations they find themselves in is a realistic representation of what a teenager might go through at school. It’s important these days to teach children about bullying and how to deal with it.
An indie book to rival the finished products of the big six, Tahlia should be very proud of the highly glossy polish this book has. If all indie authors could produce this standard of work, the readers of today would be in for a treat!
Now, back onto the story, while there were cliche moments, it didn’t disrupt the storyline. In fact I think some of them helped to solidify the moment in the story and show character growth and development.
Where I took a step back from the story was with the imaginary happenings of the characters, the strange cut scenes that they used to help make important discoveries and growth. They seemed a little too ‘young’ for the story to me. It could be that I’m just not the intended target audience of You Can’t Shatter Me, and as I believe that is the case I overlooked that and bumped up the rating.
This book would be a great one to share with the young adult in your life, be they a son, daughter, niece or nephew. It highlights the bravery required to overcome bullying, but it also teaches them other valuable lessons about self worth and being kind to others. It should be compulsory reading for all Primary and High school kids today.
**Note: I was provided an electronic version of the book in return for an honest review***