It's been a while since I've written a book review! I'm making a goal to write more reviews for the books I read, and to make sure I post reviews onto Goodreads and Amazon - it helps support the authors and publishers. In any case, here is my review (spoiler free of course)!
Today I am reviewing Orla and the Serpant's Curse, written by C. J. Haslam, and published by Walker Books. The front cover is illustrated by Paddy Donnelly, and it is gorgeous!
Check out the book here - https://www.walker.co.uk/Orla-and-the-Serpent-s-Curse-9781406388480.aspx
This book is an incredible magical adventure. I absolutely adored this - I was initially attracted by the interactions between Orla and her Jack Russell dog, Dave. As a kid I had a Jack Russell called Tasco, who was my best friend and partner in mischief, and Dave and Tasco would have been instant friends (should Dave find her suitable to approach his charges of course). I have never read a more apt description of those stubborn little dogs; "his job was head of household security, specialising in close protection and threat detection." (page 10) Jack Russell Terriers are truly fantastic dogs, with a mind of their own, and loyalty embedded into their bones. Brave little Dave was a delight in this book, and every time he appeared I had a blast.
Enough excitement over Dave (don't worry I'm sure I'll find more to talk about him), let's look at the book.
I loved this magical and brilliantly written adventure. This book is set in a small holiday house in Cornwall: the Perry family have taken up the chance to stay in a rural cottage as a family holiday. The family dynamics in this book are fantastic - the brothers are both kind and mischievous to Orla, their mum a little oblivious but supportive of our unusual main character. I always enjoy reading books with well-crafted families - it makes it that much more absorbing.
The magic in this book delighted me! This book features traditional witchcraft and the mythology around it - Haslam clearly did a lot of detailed research, and the integration of the traditions of witchcraft into the tales, and done so effortlessly. I recently became interested in traditional witchcraft and mythology, doing a fair bit of research into Wicca myself, and enjoyed seeing this integrated so seamlessly. This approach to magic is a refreshing read - while I enjoy the Harry Potter style magic, with wands and magic schools, Haslam's magical world is embedded into our world - and this makes it feel so much more real and special.
The main character, Orla, reminds me of Merida from Disney's Brave. Merida is one of my favourite princesses (does Mulan count as a princess?) and the red hair and tenacious attitude of Orla stood out to me. She is so determined and stubborn and caring, and when faced with curses and tough situations, she is ready to rise to the challenge, whether she wants to or not. Orla drives the story forward, faces adversity, and is an admirable character. If I could channel half of Orla's traits into my life, nothing could stand in my way!
I think we could all do with being a bit like Orla during these trying times!
I also admire that Orla accepts and seeks out help - it can be frustrating to read books where the character doesn't seek down an expert on the topic at hand, so it is refreshing to see Orla actively doing so. While I adore magical adventure books, many of them add convolutions to the plot that are unnecessary by not having characters seek knowledge on the topic or problem at hand, and running straight into a trap or more plot-convenient problems. Haslam avoids this trope by having Orla driving the story, rather than the story driving Orla's actions. This makes the book a fantastic and enjoyable read.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and think it's a 10/10 holiday read. Especially if you're holidaying in Cornwall! I think this book would be suitable for anyone 8 years and up, but adults will enjoy this too! And I really love Dave.
Rating - 10/10, 8+, fantastic Summer read
(Just a little request - if you're looking to buy this book, please consider buying it from an indie bookshop! Or ordering it from Foyles or an online bookstore, rather than Amazon! Support bookshops! And consider leaving a review on Goodreads!)
Now that I am finished with university and getting a better reading schedule I am hoping to have a few more reviews up on this blog!
Thanks for reading!