Paying Piper & Castles in the Air by Ilana Waters

I remember saying that Ilana Waters had a very Diana Wynne
Jones-ish writing style in my
review of The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt
, a middle grade fantasy
novel. That impression was only strengthened when  I read a couple more of
the author’s stories. 
Paying Piper (or “What Happened in Hamelin Town”)
The Pied Piper of Hamelin was never my favourite story. I
thought it was rather odd as a child, and when I learn that the piper
symbolized plague, I thought it was horrible. So, I was really looking forward
to reading a retelling of the story by Ilana Waters, whose Diana Wynne
Jones-esque novel The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt made me wish I was a kid
again! Needless to say, I loved Paying Piper (or What Happened in Hamelin

I’m sure many people who are, like me, just children at heart will love this
story just as much as I did. The quirky, conversational tone of writing reminded
me of my childhood favourites, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl! The story has the
kind of playful humour a child may like with the talking rats and the
constantly irritated people and a subtler wit that makes it a lot more than
just another children’s story. Ilana has a way of describing things so well
that you wonder if you’re actually watching the story, in this case a Disney
cartoon; very apt and very imaginative. She has given the story a pleasing
twist, making it about kindness and second chances. What I loved is how it
never seems like a retelling, but a tale that she came up with herself! The
people in the story have so much character and so do the rats, which must have
been hard to do, because most of the Grimm stories that I ever read were full of
stock characters; here, even the stout miserly mayor seemed more than just

Among other things, this story will also be your chance to try a new author
before you move on to her longer works. And I’m certain, as soon as you’ve
finished this, you will find yourself rushing off to buy The Adventures of
Stanley Delacourt! Read this great little story here

Castles in the Air – A Novella of Hartlandia

Do you see that cover? I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I could spend pages describing just how amazingly beautiful, magical, fun it looks, but I think you can see that yourself. Interestingly, the novella itself is just as innovative, magical and fun!

Summary: Ten-year-old Wikkley McStag and his family are born farmers,
happy to work the land. But then they – and other royal subjects – are forced to
buy strange, useless machines. Money starts running out. Now the McStags have
two days before they lose their farm. As the eldest child, Wikkley must journey
to the palace and ask for the king’s help. His loved ones only hope his
reckless nature won’t get him in trouble once he’s there!

When Wikkley arrives at the palace, he finds an unnecessary castle being built
right into the sky. The same thing is happening in a neighboring kingdom. When
royal foolishness leads to disaster, it’s up to Wikkley to save several lives.
Will his recklessness finally come in handy? Or will it mean the end of his
family, his farm, and possibly… his life?

My thoughts: Castles in the Air is a pleasure to read. It is written in a conversational manner, like someone is actually reading you a story and you can feel the voice and tone in the words. It’s fabulous. There’s also a lot of adventure and whole new ideas introduced in every chapter. The world Ilana has created is magical and just absurd enough!

Being a novella, it is swift paced and you could easily gulp it down within hours! Wikkley is very adorable and makes a perfect hero for a middle grade fantasy – he is kind and caring, bold and a little reckless, not to mention, very funny! I think most readers will find it very easy to relate to him and his way of looking at things adds much of the humour to the tale. The story, like any children’s book, has a moral; it teaches about family and being brave and doing what it takes. However, though meant for children, the novella could ideally be enjoyed by anyone. At least, everyone who has a little child somewhere in them, who would appreciate such a playful story as this one!

You can buy the book right here. If middle grade fantasy isn’t really your genre, you can certainly try this paranormal romance by the same author.

House of Cards by Ilana Waters

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Sherry has just begun her newly
independent life in Paris when she is kidnapped by a group of vampires.
They hold her hostage in the House of Cadamon, their catacomb lair beneath the
city, ruled with an iron fist by a leader known as ‘the Master.’

The only thing keeping Sherry alive is her ability to tell
vampire fortunes through tarot cards, a task she is forced to perform night
after night. She finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a four-hundred-year-old
reluctant blood drinker who is as much a prisoner of Cadamon as she is.
Things get even more complicated when Sherry and Lucas begin
falling for each other—hard. Will they be able to keep Sherry alive long enough
for them both to escape the House of Cadamon? Or will the Master and his band
of evil minions succeed in controlling the lives of the young lovers—by
whatever means necessary?
With its breathtaking Parisian setting,
fast-moving plot, and strong-willed heroine, this paranormal romance will
keep you spellbound!

My Thoughts: When I found this book waiting for me in my inbox this morning, it occurred to me that I had about three hours before I had to leave. Obviously, I spent my time devouring the entire book. It’s your typical paranormal romance (though I admit, I’m still not quite familiar with the genre), albeit not too typical. The sexy, troubled vampire has become an overly used stock character lately, and I was sorry to see that Ilana has made her lead (Lucas) little more. You also have the Master and his followers, including a puppy-dog loyal female vampire and I guess that all does sound very typical. I just think that dismissing this book with a simple, “I don’t like vampire romances.” would be silly; while it does have some of the stereotypes, it is unique in many ways!

First, when reading these new style of teen / YA paranormal romances, I’ve always noticed how fine these girls seem to be with the idea of vampires, the knowledge that the guys they so love are supernatural creatures. It all seems highly unrealistic, and so, incredibly shallow – by giving Sherry a certain vague idea beforehand of the existence of the supernatural, inexplicable abilities of her own, Ilana has managed to make Sherry’s experience at the House of Cadamon and her reactions very convincing. I really liked Sherry. I liked the idea that the reason for her loneliness, her feeling lost is explained and it couldn’t be more realistic – losing her sister to an accident, not having managed to let go of her even after six years. The emotions are dealt with wonderfully and it is more than ‘just another teenage problem’. The romance that slowly develops between Lucas and Sherry is not just out of attraction or infatuation but has more to do with finding someone to be close to and finally moving on. It’s one of the reasons why I liked the book.

Lastly, I have to admit, I still do like Ilana’s middle grade fantasy a lot more, but probably only because it’s more of a my kind of genre. Obviously, the one thing that stood out to me the most in this book, was the writing style. It is very fluid and the descriptions of Paris are fantastic. The dialogue is really well written, every character has their own way of talking and it tells a lot about them. But most of all, the writing is just delightfully witty. It genuinely makes you laugh! And who wouldn’t want to read such a book? Grab your copy right here!

The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt by Ilana Waters

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt is a middle grade
fantasy novel written by Ilana Waters.
Summary: Ten-year-old Stanley Delacourt loves his quiet life in the
peaceful village of Meadowwood. At least, he does until his best friend is
killed. Then the town library—where Stanley lives and works—is burned to the
ground. The individuals responsible for both tragedies are a nasty group of
soldiers. They work for the kingdom’s new leader, Christopher Siren. With the
grown-ups too fearful to take action, Stanley vows to confront Siren. He plans
to get answers and demand justice. Little does he know that his journey will
involve sword-wielding knights, kidnapper fairies, and dark magic. 

Stanley has only two allies back home: a witch named Meredith, and a young
apothecary called Sophie. Can they help him discover the reason behind Siren’s
crimes and end this terrible reign? Or is Stanley set to become the next victim
in the tyrant’s evil plot?
My thoughts: I used to look at books like Artemis Fowl and you know,
Percy Jackson and imagine how much I would have loved reading them in my ‘middle
grade’ years. I relived those years, so to say, when I read almost all of Diana
Wynne Jones’s books in a week. This is another of the books that I am sure I
would have loved a whole bunch of years ago. Now, it took me a little time to
get past the way it was written. It sounded childish, which I know was
intentional, but it was something I am not used to reading. Being a child at
heart (the kind who still enjoys reading Enid Blyton’s short stories), though,
it didn’t take long for me to be hooked on the book.
The author has created a world with intricate detail and
what was surely a lot of research, but what I like the most is that she has
managed to avoid the one thing that spoils fantasy series more than anything
else: information overload. We get to know just enough at just the right time to
enjoy the book, while still being curious enough about the new world to read
the sequel. The characters are kind of typical in place, but I like the
contrasts in the characters. I especially like all the female characters in the
books. The word that describes the writing style best is: fun! I could tell the
author enjoyed herself thoroughly writing the book, with its poetic flow and the
actual comical poetry written in it. It was an honest effort and the style as
well as the magic in the book kept reminding me over and over of Diana Wynne
Jones’s books. I was almost entirely sure the writer had used her as an
inspiration. It wasn’t the perfect book I’ve read: I mean, there were thing
clearly inspired, arguably borrowed from other books, it wasn’t the most
original or unique and it wasn’t written quite as impeccably as I would have
liked, but it is a great book nonetheless.
For those of you, who are used to reading middle grade novels (i.e.
if you are actually that age or you’ve never quite grown up in your head, like
me) this would be quite an enjoyable book and I would certainly recommend you to try
it. Grab your copy right here! To know more about the author, check out this nice little interview.