Tag Archives: books

Review: Gamers' Challenge by George Ivanoff

I reviewed the first of George Ivanoff’s YA adventure series, Gamers’ Quest, on my old blog, and said how much I enjoyed it.

I was delighted, then, that this fast-paced fresh book had a sequel – Gamers’ Challenge – and even moreso to find out that George is in the throes of writing a third book in the series.

Gamers’ Challenge follows not long after the end of Gamers’ Quest where two games characters, Tark and Zyra, have defied the game designers, broken their programming with a kiss and chosen to live outside the rules of the game.

Of course, breaking the rules has consequences. They are no longer perennial teens who find game-play convenient tools and challenges as part of the game they once played: they need to sleep now, their hair grows and they get acne, for a start.

A more serious consequence is that balls of static energy now appear to be trying to kill them too.

Tark and Zyra finally meet with other people who have broken their programs and become ‘Outers’. They also learn that there are ‘cheats’,  prophecies about escaping into the real world.

Gamers’ Challenge builds logically on the original world, where the characters inhabit a gaming environment full of strange magic, technomagic and technology. We find out more about Tark and Zyra’s environment, and the other gaming environments around them. There are new friendships (and not so friendly relationships) and mysteries to explore, but there’s also plenty of action and tension.

The characters are engaging and are certainly more than the simple gaming characters they were designed to be. Brave, loyal and flawed, Tark, Zyra, Hope and the others keep you caring about their fates and the fate of their world. Even the Ultimate Gamer and the Outers, though less the point of focus, have more going on that initially meets the eye.

George Ivanoff continues to write fun, fast-paced adventures for younger readers. The Gamers series might particularly appeal to boys, and the original book was listed on both the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge and the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: Shadows by Paula Weston (AWW Challenge #8)

The trends in paranormal fiction have been moving on apace from the vampire standard. Werewolves and zombies have taken their turn as protagonists, and in the last few years angels have moved onto the scene. I haven’t really sought out any of the angelic paranormal fiction, partly because the one attempt I made was full of wafty, superior, rarified and, well, angelic characters that I found a bit dull. I wasn’t sure how the basic background was ever going to translate into textured and rather more human personalities, which I prefer.

Then Text Publishing sent me Paula Weston’s Shadows, the first book in the new Rephaim series, and I thought: Oh, this is how it works!

The story is narrated by Gaby, a young woman living in a Queensland beachside town, as she nurses her still tender wounds, a year after the terrible car accident that killed her twin brother.

The trouble is that Gaby isn’t quite what she thinks she is, and there are a lot of people who want to know what actually happened to her and her brother Jude. Well, I say people, but really, all of these visitors, who wish to visit varying degrees of agression on Gabe, are actually the Nephilim, the half-human, half-angel children of fallen angels. They call themselves the Rephaim now, and they are far from what one might think of as angelic.

One of the first on the scene is Rafa, a warrior who featured in Gaby’s recurring nightmares of fighting with demons. Only – are they dreams or memories? Is Rafa a friend or a foe? As those seeking Gaby and Jude start showing up in idyllic Pandanus Beach, the question of allegiances is shifting constantly, because Gaby-now doesn’t remember who she was, or what her alliances were then. She doen’t know who to trust, but then her very human friends get tangled up in these skirmishes and, like it or not, Gaby has to start doing something about it all. But who’s got her back, and will she ever remember who she was?

The story goes at a cracking pace from page one, and is full of fabulous, full-bodied characters like Rafa and Mags, Gaby’s best friend. There’s action, sexual tension, suspense and some hairy moments where Gaby is called upon to do things she can’t remember how to do. Some of the unanswered questions are frustrating, but there the reader shares Gaby’s  frustration, because she can’t work out who she was and what happened to her, let alone who to trust.

The Australian setting is distinctive without being overwhelming, and the writing flows smoothly (and with frequent wit) as it rockets along to the conclusion. This first part of the story is wrapped up, although obviously, as the first in a series, there are still a lot of things to learn when you read the last page.

In any case, if you’re a bit lary of angelfic, as I was, this is a great story with a rollicking pace and engaging characters, so if you’re going to try the genre, this is a good place to dip your feathers in the water.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.