#BlogTour Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton

 It’s my turn on the Blogtour Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton. This is the second book in The Adventures of Phyllo Cane series, the first book is Phyllo Cane and the Circus of Wonder.

About the Author

Sharn W. Hutton is the author of The Adventures of Phyllo Cane series, the first of which, Phyllo Cane and the Circus of Wonder, was hailed by the judging panel of The Booklife Prize to be ‘dizzyingly bewitching, articulate and intoxicating.’ The next adventure, Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie, is set for release July 31st 2022.

Prior to this foray into the realms of upper middle grade/YA magical fantasy, Sharn wrote cozy mystery based around the irrepressible Angel Drake, in Angel Drake is Going Solo and the short story, Nothing Ventured. Her first novel, It’s Killing Jerry, was a standalone mystery.

Based in Bushey, Hertfordshire, Sharn works from home in the tiny office at the back of the house, which makes up for what it lacks in size and warmth with a rather nice view of the garden. When she isn’t hitting the keyboard (laptop, not piano) she does enjoy a trip to the theatre or cinema and pretends to use the very expensive exercise machine rusting in the summerhouse.

One day she plans to also learn how to play the piano. Visit sharnhutton.com, Follow @sharnious on Instagram

About the book

Magically magnificent, fantastic and ferocious at least, that’s what you’d expect of a fire-breathing dragon. But what if yours won’t come out of its pen to perform? What if the Ringmaster thinks it’s worth more in the apothecary chop-shop than as part of the troupe?

The Beast Whisperer of the Circus of Wonder must bring her beloved dragon back up to its performing peak fast, if she’s to save it, and she thinks she knows what to do.

The unhappy creature needs a mate, but the male sand dragon is a rare beast indeed, and she’ll never be able to catch one alone.

Time for Phyllo to become the Beast Whisperer’s apprentice… Join Phyllo on his next apprenticeship with the Circus of Wonder – a brand new adventure with the fantastic beasts of the Magical Menagerie and a race against time to save their lonely dragon from destruction.


This is the second book in the Phyllo Cane series, and although both books can be read separately, I would recommend reading the first to get the gist of the story. It’s also a good read. 

Phyllo still hasn’t found his place in the Circus as we start this book, unfortunately he thinks he has returned home to perhaps take a place in their small unit. Instead, the Ringmaster wants him to continue on his quest to find the right apprenticeship and finding the right one will also determine whether he can stay near his family. It’s a way to finetune or simply find his own talents and his place in the world of magic.

It’s a story both younger (10 plus) and older readers will enjoy. Filled with magic, wonderfully strange creatures and a circus community that is family in its own strange way. It’s a series with plenty of potential, partly because Phyllo hasn’t quite found his own particular corner and talent yet. And of course, the last sentence of this book is not only a cliff-hanger of sorts – it also promises another great read. 

It’s also the kind of book that speaks to the spark of wonder and imagination we carry within us – worlds full of magic, hidden treasures, and darkened corners full of mystery and surprises. Just the right kind of read to create a lifelong reader. Looking forward to more adventures with Phyllo, and of course seeing where his path leads him, although I have a certain suspicion that his journey of Jack of all trades will culminate in a very specific path.

Buy Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: ‎Star City Press pub date 31 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Amazon International Booklink to Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie: mybook.to/PCATMagicalMenagerie

Amazon International Booklink to Series page: mybook.to/PhylloCane – Current Kindle price: £3.99 – Current Paperback price: £9.99

The Binding by Bridget Collins

This is the kind of story that captures the imagination and gives it a life of its own. I absolutely adored the idea of the bookbinders and their special powers. In fact when you think about the idea aren’t authors the same kind of bookbinders? Putting pen to paper to transcribe stories and memories, so hungry readers can satisfy their cravings.

I was mesmerised by the idea of being able to take someone’s memories and keep them locked in a book, thereby extracting them forever from the giver. Also by the idea that books are something evil, forbidden, perhaps even salacious. Imagine if someone had the ability to take away your most awful memory, but of course it also means they would be able to take the most beloved of memories also.

Emmett feels shocked and betrayed when his parents pack him off to work with the old woman everyone calls a witch. His inability to help out on his parents farm has become an obstacle between himself, his parents and his sister. Being unable to pull his weight makes him just another unhelpful mouth to feed, but surely getting rid of him is a little heartless and extreme.

Seredith is an eccentric employer. She believes in the old ways, and that the moral compass of a binder should come before making any profit. She also believes Emmett needs the right supervision and patience to learn how to understand and control his potential. Unfortunately it might mean he has to confront his demons and the secrets swirling in his head.

I’ll admit I was surprised when the story veered off into one of a forbidden love. More so because I really wanted Collins to explore the magic of the bookbinding a little more. It’s such a wonderfully unique idea I hope the author brings us another novel with a focus on this aspect of the story or a sequel to this one. Saying that, it is also a book which has the ability to remain a staunch solitary read.

The combination of fantasy, historical, speculative fiction and the unique story of love creates a remarkable read. It’s enchanting, heart-wrenching and magical. Collins has outdone herself and I applaud her creativity.

Buy/Pre-order The Binding at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Kindle pub. date 7 Jan 2018, Hardcover pub.date 10 Jan 2018. Publisher: The Borough Press (@BoroughPress) imprint of HarperCollins

Follow @Br1dgetCollins on Twitter, Visit thebindingbook.com

Darien, Empire of Salt by C.F. Iggulden

darienI do like bit of well-written fantasy and Iggulden is certainly quite talented at spinning a fantastical tale. Darien is the first in the Empire of Salt series.

Although the magic plays a pivotal role it doesn’t overpower the individual stories. Each of those stories and characters are interesting enough to hold their own in a standalone novel, but bringing them together in this book makes the idea all the more intriguing.

Their lives and stories do eventually come together at a certain point in time during great conflict. This collision sets them all on completely different paths.

Elias has always used his gift to help himself and others. Selfless acts of magic to help everyone survive another day. When he accidentally reveals his gift to someone ruthless he falls into a trap that puts his family at risk. Having to use his magic for evil instead of good goes against every grain in his body. It’s the beginning of the end.

Daw and Nancy come together under less than auspicious circumstances. He wants to use her null potential to steal, however the two of them end up finding more than they bargained for. Nancy ends up becoming a strategic player in an unexpected coup.

Then there is the old swordsman Tellius, who happens to stumble upon Arthur, a young orphan. It doesn’t take Tellius long to discover that he has found a magic being older than time itself. His kind hasn’t been seen or heard of for centuries. Unfortunately that also makes the being very desirable to a lot of people. What follows is a intrigue laden battle for power in the midst of a coup, and the possible assassination of a king.

It has all the ingredients for a great read, and it certainly lives up to the hype and Iggulden’s reputation. It’s as if the magic draws all of them together for the greater cause, and yet none of them can see the individual threads. I am eager to see where this tale goes from here. I have to admit that Arthur and his story might have made me aww a little. It reminded me of the little boy in AI (Spielberg). It tugs on the heartstrings a little.

It’s a really good read.

Buy Darien at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney


I adored the way Delaney mixed an aura of Victorian era with a hint of modern. For me it definitely had shades of Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders, and to be fair the author does give the books a nudge, wink and its dues.

How to give you an idea of what this book is like? Imagine the aura and setting of an old book mixed with themes of urban fantasy, magic, ghosts and necromancy with an 19th century setting.

The story starts with our main character sat in jail reflecting upon the past and the choices that have led to her facing the noose. The reader is then invited to follow Tully Truegood, as she is taught to control the passion within her.

She is taught the art of pleasure and how to pleasure others, which unfortunately also means heartbreak and disappointment. In her profession it can also mean violence and having to endure or watch violations and intimate betrayals.

Subtly interwoven into the story is a fascinating element of necromancy and ghostly magic. Tully can see the sins of the past, the horrors that haunt us and the mistakes everyone keeps very well hidden. It’s a talent and also a curse.

Delaney also writes with the eloquence of a writer of the 19th century. Her writing goes down like hot chocolate on a cold day. It’s simply a pleasure to read.

Hopefully this was the first of many for Delaney. I know I will be both recommending this book and looking forward to the next.

Buy An Almond For a Parrot at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

the inquisition.jpgI haven’t read the first book, but I can honestly say it was easy enough to get the gist of the pre-story. It’s not necessarily a prerequisite for this book, because it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fletcher appears to be on the short end of the stick the majority of the time. There always seems to be someone wanting to stick it to him. He literally goes from one frying pan to the other as others attempt to destroy him.

This causes friction, mistrust and also paranoia, even within friendship groups. During their quest this becomes very evident when certain people become suspicious of Cress and question her loyalty.

Matharu uses the conflict between the various races to point out the class and caste structure or system between them all, which in turn leads to racism and discrimination.

I really like the element of having the demons as the familiars (like a witch’s cat) and the way some of them are passed down through family lines.

It is an entertaining read with strong and memorable characters. It reminds me of a few well-known fantasy and magic stories with Matharu’s very own distinctive style.

Hopefully Mathura will explore the betrayal of Fletcher’s parents in the next book, especially after the bombshell cliffhanger at the end of this book.

Buy The Inquisition (Summoner #2) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

blazeBright Blaze of Magic is the third and apparently the final instalment in the YA urban fantasy Black Blade series by Estep.

I am sorry to see it go, I have really been enjoying the Black Blade series. It is energetic, funny, ticks all the boxes for urban fantasy and is suitably YA without being over-the-top candy flossy.

The characters are strong and well-developed, although I have to say for me the real star of the book is the lochnessy monster under the bridge. It definitely steals the spotlight from Lila.

Little Miss Merriweather has come a long way since the first book. From thief, to bodyguard and now she is expected to save the day, the monsters and all the families. No pressure at all then.

Lila and gang have been working hard to thwart Victor Draconi and his nefarious black blade plans. Unfortunately they haven’t really thought everything through. The one day of the year when every member of each family is most vulnerable is when you should expect an attack, no?

Their attempt to stop Draconi leads to an escalation, deaths and the possible annihilation of the Sinclair family. Lila sees an opportunity to get revenge for the Sterling family and to save her new family.

In this book Lila makes a connection to an unusual set of allies with the help of her aunt. I wish this had happened sooner, because it has such great potential for a plot. The monsters collaborating with the magically inclined, now that would have made a great fourth book.

As always Estep takes the reader on a wild ride through a world of elemental magic, monsters, mobsters and the occasional fruit throwing tree troll. It’s fast paced and highly enjoyable.

Buy Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade #3) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1) and Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade #2)

More of the Estep’s Elemental Assassin series here: Spider’s Trap, Poison PromiseThe SpiderThe Black Widow and Heart of Venom.

Reap the Wind by Karen Chance

download (14)Well this book is certainly a whirlwind, I don’t think the main character managed to stop and have a break for even a minute. It was non-stop fast-paced action.

Faster than Chance’s usual pace that’s for sure. She usually gives us some drawn out moments of passion or touchy feely scenes.

If you have been following the life and troubles of Cassie Palmer since the beginning then you will understand the difference between the two of them when you read this book and this Cassie, as opposed to the Cassie of the first book.

Chance has kicked up the erotic scenes a notch. Easing slowly towards a romantic relationship between Pritkin and Cassie. She spends a lot of time reflecting upon the why of her relationship with Mircea. Is it love, is it lust or is it just compulsion? If so, has she possibly been ignoring a real connection between her and Pritkin all this time?

It seems as if Cassie spends all her time in the buff, in a towel or in general with no clothes in her general vicinity. She also seems to have an unfortunate amount of bathroom, shower and bedroom incidents. Old Cassie used to do all her stunts and crazy missions with clothes on, she also never used to spend half her time playing hole in one with her flavour of the month.

It is almost as if Chance is bowing down to the pressure of appealing to a mass audience and using the quick thrills to keep them captivated, instead of sticking to her unique style of writing and creativity.

In my opinion Chance is still quite underrated as an Urban Fantasy writer. She certainly deserves more recognition than she gets, especially for her Dorina Basarab series. She spins the worlds of vamps, fey, shifters and magic together like a well-constructed spider’s web, and combines all of it with her feisty characters and charming wit.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley, courtesy of Penguin Berkley/Signet.

Buy Reap the Wind on Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for Amazon.com or for any other retailer.

Read Ride the Storm by Karen Chance

Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Cold Burn

For Estep readers, who know the Gin Blanco ‘Spider’ series, you will know what I mean when I say Lila is kind of like a very young Gin. An abundance of energy with a will of steel, a tragic past and a need for vengeance.

Much like Gin, Lila also has a sort of mentor and guide, who watches over the orphan and her best interests. I think it is both interesting and surprising the way Estep has created a new character in an old environment. Indeed the popular recipe will probably work again, but I would really enjoy seeing her branch out and risk a few steps in new directions.

Of course that doesn’t detract from the fact this is a good story for both younger and older readers. A good old YA Urban Fantasy filled with magic and monsters. A reboot for Gin lovers.

Lila has made herself believe she doesn’t need any family, but I think deep inside she understands how much she needs Mo and now perhaps even the members of her new employer’s family. Everyone underestimates her powers and talents. Most importantly they have no idea just how tough she is under her girly exterior.

Despite having a healthy respect for her dangerous surroundings and the monsters lurking in the dark, she still has trouble controlling her gut reactions. It certainly does make for some awkward situations.

On a more personal note, I think I could do with my very own pixie to make my bed nd bring me treats. Where can I buy one? I will even take a bolshy one like Oscar. Added bonus to the story has to be the monster under the bridge. I need to make sure to take coins with me to pay the toll. Just in case.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

Buy Cold Burn of Magic ( Black Blade #1) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade #2) and Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade #3).

More of the Estep’s Elemental Assassin series here: Spider’s Trap, Poison PromiseThe SpiderThe Black Widow and Heart of Venom.

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

download (18)

Chrysler Szarlan has created a story, which crosses the line between magic and urban fantasy. The magic and illusion of magic shows, and the magic of something akin to witchcraft, passed down from generation to generation of female family members.

The past becomes part of the present, as the tragedies that hit Revelation and her family become linked with unsolved mysteries that have left a small town isolated and deserted.

I think the first half of the book focused far too much on what happens to the husband, because the actual main attraction emerges in the second half.

It often felt like Szarlan hopped from one sub-plot to another and didn’t concentrate enough on the main plot. Despite that the story and idea has a lot of potential and certainly plenty of possibilities for further books.

I did leave me with a few unanswered questions though. The reader finds out why Hannah disappears, where the other girls ended up, but that didn’t gel with what happened with the rest of the town.

Is the book driven by the keeper, is the keeper driven by the book or do the emotions of the keeper drive the book? That is the real question and perhaps Szarlan will answer in a sequel.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

Uprising (Heirs of the Demon King Book 1) by Sarah Cawkwell


It is a little long-winded at times, especially the first few chapters but beneath the top layer of British monarchs and their offspring there is a fantasy with potential.

After the initial dance of demon monarchs we get to the main character Matthew, who lives in blissful ignorance of his impending fate. The path he is set to travel will tear him from his loved ones and make him question his very existence.

The author has combined the Inquisition, heresy and witchcraft with demonic power and ancient magic. Cawkwell has changed the royal lineage by changing the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth.

Matthew and Tagan set off on a quest to gather together a merry band of magical beings. Each one more eccentric and unusual than the next.

All of them are trying to escape the clutches of the vicious Inquisitor Weaver, who just happens to have a direct line to the evil force threatening to consume all that is magical in Britain.

This story takes up the pace mid-book and has a strong ending that suggests a sequel. The build-up and historical explanation at the beginning were sluggish to the point of being detrimental to the story.

It would have been better to serve all that potential straight up at the beginning with the  hors d’oeuvres instead of waiting till the main course to get to the point.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley.