The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding By Alexandra Bracken

Title: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

First Published: 5th September 2017

Blurb:

I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness.

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type. 

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host. (From Goodreads, 22nd February 2019)

Review:

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding is a middle-grade novel that will capture the interest and imagination of both children and adults alike. Or at least for myself, as an adult, it did!

Prosper Redding is part of a family that has achieved a lot, but he does not seem to be following suit. Prosper falls asleep in class, has unremarkable grades and feels that he does not live up to his family name. The Redding families success is due to a long-ago contract with a fiend, a demon, called Alastor. However, the family is waiting for the fiend to return to destroy it. Prosper becomes the unwilling host to Alastor, putting him at risk from his family.

Prosper escapes from his family and hides with his uncle and cousin who are trying to remove the fiend from his body without harming Prosper. Prosper is constantly fighting to not take out a new contract with Alastor and is also unaware of the control the fiend has of his body. Having a demon take control of your body is not always a good thing it would transpire!

I really enjoyed this book, it was fun but also had a dark side and quite a few storylines going on. Although the characters are young they had a full range of emotions and the book dealt with these in a non-patronising way. Highlighting that children do feel despair and loneliness, but that circumstances can change and things can get better.

The storytelling is fantastic and grips you from the very beginning. This is a fast-paced novel that will have you wanting more. I really want to get the second novel in this duology, The Last Life of Prince Alastor, as I enjoyed The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding so much.

I would say boys and girls would both enjoy this book, but that young adults and adults will enjoy it also. It is an escape into a tale of mystery and magic and just a perfect read whilst it is dull and cold outside.

4 out of 5 stars.

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A Danger to Herself and Others By Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Title: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

First Published: February 5th 2019

Audiobook Narrator: Devon Sorvari

Blurb:

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place. (From Goodreads, 19th February 2019)

Review:

We meet Hannah in a locked room of a psychiatric hospital, but we do not know what has brought her there. We are drawn into her mind, seeing everything from her point of view. To begin with, she only has short interactions with her psychiatrist who she names Lightfoot. Our only knowledge of why she is there is written on her file, Hannah is deemed “a danger to herself and others”. We begin to learn more about Hannah when she gains a roommate, Lucy. When Lucy arrives Hannah begins to reveal her more manipulative side and we start to feel the undertones of why Hannah may be in the hospital.

A Danger to Herself and Others is a difficult book to review as I do not want to give any spoilers. For the first third to half of the book, I was questioning a lot of the reality of the setting and treatment given which gave me an inkling about the progression of the novel. I felt uneasy about the novel but I think this was intentional. Once we learn more about Hannah and what brought her to the hospital things begin to make sense and the book became more comfortable to read.

This novel has a very constrained list of characters and focuses almost solely on Hannah and her view of things and this means we have an unreliable narrator. For some people, this novel may feel quite slow as there isn’t too much action, especially in the beginning, but it is a good insight into someone’s mind. This is what I found interesting, was the slow build-up of character. A Danger to Herself and Others is different from most books set in a psychiatric hospital that I have read as this novel does not focus too heavily on the interactions between patients, other than between Hannah and Lucy. Things begin to progress a bit faster in the second half of the book as we begin to learn more about what transpired leading Hannah to be placed in the hospital. This is when I began to enjoy the book more.

An issue I had, however, was the ending, it was sudden and although realistic it did not really highlight the potential for recovery, it focused mainly on the negatives like recurrent relapses. This I felt was a negative way to end a book, which I feel could have done more to inspire hope towards readers.

My overall opinion of A Danger to Herself and Others was that it tackled mental health problems that are usually not seen in young adult fiction. But it lacked depth into these illnesses and did not inspire hope in the way that it could have. I understand being realistic but I just felt the ending was drab. I felt a lot more could have been done with this novel.

I listened to the audiobook of A Danger to Herself and Others and felt the narrator did a fantastic job of bringing to life Hannah as a character. I would recommend listening to this audiobook for a more immersive experience.

3.5 out of 5

The Bear and the Nightingale By Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: Del Rey Books

First Published: 12th January 2017

Audiobook Narrator: Katherine Arden

Blurb:

“‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’ 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…” (From Goodreads, 15th February 2019)

Review:

This is the first novel in the Winternight Trilogy By Katherine Arden. I listened to this novel as an audiobook and enjoyed the narrators take of this book. However, not having read many books set in Russia I struggled with following the characters due to the unfamiliar names. I think that possibly reading this book physically would have made this initial issue less problematic.

The Bear and the Nightingale is an enchanting tale about a strong-willed young girl name Vasilisa who soaks up stories her old nurse-maid tells her and her siblings next to the firelight during the long winter in Russia. These fairytales tell of demons who live in the forest are both enchanting and chilling. However, when Vasilisa’s father brings home a new wife who is a devout follower of the church the talk of demons and house spirits is no longer allowed. This is a bone of contention between Vasilisa and her step-mother. The family are no longer allowed to pay tribute to the house spirits, and this scares Vasilisa as she alone can see the house spirits. Soon crops begin to fail, the fire needs more fuel and, more worryingly, evil in the forest begins to creep towards the house. Soon the stories Vasilisa was once told no longer seem to be stories and she must use her gifts to try and keep her family safe regardless of the consequences.

This is a beautiful story of one girl’s struggle with being different and dealing with forces that others cannot see. This is a novel of folklore and is magical and dark. Books set in Russia are very new to me and so I do not know if the tales in this story are based on Russian folklore, but it feels like it is. I am excited to read the next novel in the trilogy as I feel it will up the ante even more and will bring more magical tales that are deliciously dark and enthralling.

The writing style was beautiful with the right balance of description and action once we got to the main part of the novel. The novel certainly picks up the pace throughout, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

My only drawback is that it took me a while to get into this book, as there were so many characters introduced and I struggled to keep track of their names and character relationships. I felt that maybe there was a bit too much of an information dump at the beginning but this may be important to the following novels, but as it stands after reading the first novel I felt this information was too much too soon.

4 out of 5