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To be continued...

New year, new books. There are plenty of exciting new titles being published, many of them ready for review in the next edition of Armadillo magazine. But hold on! There are also some great next books in the series of... I therefore set myself a challenge to read five continuations in as many days. Here they are.

Max and the Midknights: Battle of the Bodkins finds Max the hero of the hour after saving Byjovia - but she is still struggling to become a proper knight when Byjovia is under attack once again. Working as a team, Max and her friends need to draw upon all their skills and talents to stop an invasion of Bodkins. This is essentially a stand-alone story, so there is no need to read the first book to enjoy the second. There are lots of laughs in this part prose, part cartoon format, written and illustrated by Lincoln Peirce (Penguin Random House). The plot also thickens as Max confronts her own bodkin.

Three Keys by Kelly Yang (Knights Of) brilliantly sums up the first book in one sentence: “We had bought the motel from Mr Yao, and we were finally going to run it our way!” Whilst this is an important premise for the second book, this next instalment sees Mia rising to the challenge of an imminent California election and Proposition 187, preventing undocumented immigrants from accessing education and other public services. The fortunes of the motel, making a point of welcoming immigrants, faces unforeseen difficulties and unexpected friends in their fight for justice. A great stand-alone story, and one that makes me want to read the backstory of the first book.

Agent Weasel and the Robber King (Hodder Children's Books) is the second assignment for Woodland Intelligence’s super-spy. The United Woodlands are under threat from a so-called Robber King, stealing everything that is precious - including the priceless Starling Silver Nuts from Principal Pine Marten’s house. With his good friend Doorkins Dormouse and a host of other woodland animals to help, Weasel shows great tenacity and courage - if few sleuthing skills! It’s fast, furious and a furore that young readers will love with threats of bird poo. If you enjoy this story, then there is always book one to get your W.I.6 fix while we wait for the author Nick East to write the third instalment.

Boot: The Creaky Creatures is the third book in the series. Somehow I missed Boot: Small Robot, BIG Adventure and Boot: The Rusty Rescue. Boot is a toy robot, discarded by a throw away culture, saved by robots who are now his friends. When a robot from the past crosses his path, Boot follows, eventually finding a robot paradise: a park where children actually care for old pet robots. Sadly, convenient culture threatens this hallowed sanctuary with plans to uproot trees, drain the lake, demolish the flowers and build a new coffee shop! Boot is angry! A great story by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Ben Mantle (Hodder Children’s Books) adding to the back catalogue of these malfunctioning robots.

I've left this one to last: A Vanishing of Griffins (Songs of Magic). It is the only one of the series selection here for which I have read the first book, A Darkness of Dragons by S.A. Patrick (Usborne). The series is a clever reworking of The Grimm brothers’ The Pied Piper of Hamelin with a heady mix of mystery, magic and mythical creatures. A Vanishing of Griffins is definitely the middle book of a trilogy, resolving a few loose ends: our hero Patch Brightwatcher throwing his best friend Erner into a cold lake, inevitable capture and attempts to reverse Wren’s magical morphosis into a rat. There is also the dracogriff Barver’s backstory. Of course, the story finishes at its darkest moment yet.

Simon Barrett



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