MG Review: Quiet Storm by Kimberly Whittam

Cover image by Bex Glendining, due for publication by Usborne Publishing, 8th June 2023

An empowering, contemporary, middle grade novel featuring a main protagonist who suffers from extreme shyness, Quiet Storm will have readers cheering at full volume for Storm Williams.

I absolutely loved this debut title from teacher Kimberly Whittam, who writes with compassion, wit and authenticity about tweens and teens, school life and the everyday challenges that need to be faced as young people find their true selves. I have not seen an introvert feature as a main protagonist in fiction for this age-group previously and a high bar has been set here. My heart went out to eleven year old Storm as she struggled through each day in Year 7, afraid to speak to any of the children in her form, none of whom are from her primary school, and reliant on meeting Zarrish, her former best friend from primary during every break and lunchtime. Although she is from a perfectly lovely family, with a gregarious and kind older brother who “is on a one-boy mission to save the world”, Storm has not managed to find the ability to express herself and would rather cower in silence than be the focus of any attention at all. Life becomes increasingly difficult for her when the family have to move in with her Grandma when their home is flooded, pitching Storm into close contact with the troublemaker in her form, at the same time as mean-girl Melissa arrives on the scene to disrupt her friendship with Zarrish.

The unexpected discovery of her huge talent on the athletics track where running is “exhilarating but calming at the same time” is the catalyst for change in Storm’s interaction with those around her. The sudden plunge into the spotlight, with the pressure of a regional athletics competition as well as a school house championship to compete for, push Storm to the limits of her confidence. Will she retreat into her shell, or find her voice, embrace her talents and find acceptance for who she truly is? The secondary plot revealing trouble-maker Ryan’s real personality, life circumstances and qualities adds an additional motivation for Storm to express herself.

Quiet Storm is a celebration of all the qualities that make each individual unique, it is a book which encourages readers to develop understanding for the behaviours of others and to respect those children who may not be outgoing but who have strengths which are not always immediately obvious in the bustle of a classroom. The positive portrayal of a girls’ athletics squad was refreshing too; the teamwork, kindness and fun of working together for a successful outcome was a strong feature of the story. The sibling relationship between Storm and Isaiah was believable and touching, in particular Isaiah’s revelation that he had been bullied for being a swot but had decided to be his own person and had grown into the adored head boy that everyone in the school respected. Finally, I enjoyed the teacher and teaching assistant characters, each of whom had a distinctive personality and all of whom were positive and nurturing towards the students in their care.

I would highly recommend Quiet Storm to children of 11+, it is due to be published on 8th June 2023 and would be a perfect read for Year 6 children as they reach the end of their primary school journeys, as well as Year 7 and 8 readers.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Usborne Publishing for sending me a proof copy of Quiet Storm ahead of publication in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Maggie Blue and the White Crow by Anna Goodall

Cover art by Sandra Dieckmann, published by Guppy Books, 2nd March 2023

This second book in the Maggie Blue trilogy soars with imagination, transporting the reader as seamlessly as the title character between two contrasting worlds . Anna Goodall’s construction of the story is masterful, encouraging the reader to read between the lines and try to piece together the puzzle of Maggie’s purpose and fate. It is labelled as a middle grade book but I would suggest that it is likely to be most enjoyed by children towards the end of Year 6, during the summer between primary and secondary school and during Key Stage 3, when they are of similar age to the child protagonists.

The story begins with Maggie and her school friends languidly passing the summer holidays in the woods or in Aunt Esme’s garden, enduring a stifling heatwave. Despite the intense heat and light, both Maggie and her friend Ida intermittently feel their blood chill when they experience flashbacks to the time spent in the Dark World. Maggie seems blissfully unaware that her every move is being watched by warrior shifters, people from the Dark World who can take on the shape of birds…but what is their intent? And can Maggie’s heightened senses really be unaware that she is needed for a further purpose in a fantasy land that she would rather not revisit?

In the real world, she now feels less of an outsider, having friends to hang out with. However, she is still insecure about her odd family circumstances; living with eccentric Aunt Esme while her mum Cynthia, is incarcerated in a mental hospital and her dad is overseas with his new young girlfriend. Regular tween discussions about holiday plans cause her discomfort and distress because she is not in a position to enjoy overseas vacations. These everyday events become immaterial when a pure white crow arrives in West Minchen, followed soon after by Cynthia who despite being in a distressed state wants to tell Maggie about her background. Without wishing to give away any plot spoilers I will simply say that Maggie is reluctantly hurtled back into the Dark World and the reader is immersed into a land of ruthless ambition, ongoing war, witches and the chillingly ferocious Terrible Ones. The seven ruling families have built a citadel in the Magic Mountains:

a bizarre glittering structure. It shone like madness in the clear light


and somehow Maggie’s fate is dependent on restoring the balance between their urge to destroy and the Great O’s mission to preserve the natural world.

This is an immersive, exciting novel with moments of violent peril balanced with some wryly humorous passages, usually featuring Hoagy the one-eyed cat! With underlying themes of mental health issues and the exploitation of the natural world it is a sophisticated tale which will leave readers desperate to find out whether Maggie will have the ability to reconcile her two worlds in the final instalment. Before I finish this review, I must encourage you to take a close look at the stunning cover art by Sandra Dieckmann which so beautifully depicts the protagonists with whom you will glide through this story.

I am very grateful to Guppy Books and to Liz Scott for sending me a copy of Maggie Blue and the White Crow in advance of publication on 2nd March 2023.

MG Review: I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery by Rhian Tracey

Cover art by David Dean, published by Piccadilly Press,
2 March 2023

This enjoyable debut by Rhian Tracey combines a fascinating WWII setting with an intriguing mystery adventure, resourceful children and brave birds; and ideal mix for an engrossing middle grade title.

The main protagonist, Robyn, has grown up at Bletchley Park, living in a cottage in the grounds of the stately home where her father works as the chauffeur. It is clear that she has had a carefree existence, roaming the grounds, swimming and rowing on the lake and observing the varied wildlife. However, the onset of war has restricted her previous freedoms. She has been told to stay away from the lake, she can no longer visit her dad in the garages which are now filled with military vehicles and her mother is now employed; running the coffee shop for the multitude of new arrivals who are housed in temporary huts on the site. Worst of all, when Robyn breaks the rules and sneaks out of the grounds to visit her best friend Mary in the village, she is hauled in front of a harsh, humourless authority figure whom she labels “The Heron” and is made to sign the Official Secrets act.

No longer permitted to leave the site, even to attend school, Robyn is put to work in the attics of the stately home where she meets kindly Mr Samuels and becomes his apprentice in the National Pigeon Service. I am sure that animal-loving children will be as fascinated as I was to learn about the vital role that these incredible birds played during WWII. The bond that Mr Samuels and Robyn form with the pigeons is heartwarmingly relatable to any child who has cared for a pet. Being based in the attics gives Robyn ample opportunities to observe the activity taking place in the Park, and she becomes increasingly suspicious of The Heron’s movements, particularly his involvement with the undertaker’s hearse which visits the Park daily. She teams up with the undertaker’s son, Ned, and Mary who is now working as a post-girl delivering messages to the inhabitants of the huts, and together they begin to investigate The Heron’s nefarious dealings. Secret codes, hidden tunnels and unexpected villains keep the plot entertaining whilst readers of 10+ also learn about the changes, particularly to women’s lives, that occurred during WWII. I think that I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery gives a fresh perspective on the second world war and will be a welcome addition to primary school classrooms and libraries.

In my former role in a school I used to deliver a lesson about Bletchley Park as part of the computing curriculum for Year 6, the children really enjoyed making their own Enigma Machines from old Pringles (or non-branded equivalents) tubes. (You can find resources and instructions for this activity, designed by Franklin Health Ltd and available free here). If any primary school teachers or librarians investigate cryptography or the history of computing with Year 5 or Year 6, I would highly recommend using this book as a class reader to coincide with that unit of work.

I am grateful to Piccadilly Press and Antonia Wilkinson for sending me a review copy of I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery prior to publication on 2nd March 2023.

MG Review: Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson

Cover images from shutterstock by Richie Chan and Tsekhmister. Published by Cranachan 16 February 2023

This is a beautifully written story, narrated in the first person by John Nicol, who at the age of twelve has to reluctantly leave school and become the family breadwinner. Readers gain an insight into the realities of poverty during the Victorian age and the dangerous working conditions endured by so many to construct engineering projects which we often take for granted today. Barbara Henderson is an immensely skilled author and she presents her historical research in the context of a gripping story which does not side step the harsh facts but is suitable for readers of 10+. I can honestly say that I was riveted from the first page to the last!

John has to overcome his fear of heights, life-threatening workplace bullying and the constant burns which arise from employment as a rivet boy on construction of the Forth Bridge. Despite these hardships he is portrayed as a positive, polite young man and as a reader you cannot help rooting for him. The author cleverly weaves John’s growing maturity as a working lad with his intellectual growth, guided by the kindly librarian Mr Peebles who curates his reading choices at the newly opened Carnegie Library in Dunfermline. I loved the representation of a librarian’s ability to make a positive impact on someone’s life chances which was demonstrated in this story. I also enjoyed the resonance between John’s situation of being dragged away from his familiar life and forced to grow up quickly and the heroes of the Robert Louis Stevenson books that he is devouring. The final element of the story which delighted me was the device of John’s autograph book as a way to include the many famous names who travelled to Scotland to admire the great engineering feat, allied with the determined figure of Cora, daughter of the rescue boat captain, who is prepared to break with convention to further John’s cause and her own desire to become an engineer.

Reading this book caused me to reflect on the fact that my own children’s education about Victorian engineering was entirely focused on Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I thoroughly enjoyed the Scottish setting of Rivet Boy and was pleased to learn about engineers such as Sir William Arrol, who built the Forth Bridge (and Tower Bridge) and Margaret Moir a founding member of The Women’s Engineering Society. I highly recommend this book to all primary school libraries and classrooms to add to their Victorian book collections, it is full of useful information as well as being a cracking read.

I am very grateful to Cranachan Books and Antonia Wilkinson for a review copy of Rivet Boy, which is published on 16 February 2023, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Beat the Backlist Challenge: Speak Up! Graphic Novel written and illustrated by Rebecca Burgess

Cover illustration by Rebecca Burgess, published by Quill Tree Books,
27 October 2022.

To my shame, the graphic novel Speak Up! has been sitting in my TBR stack for nearly four months and knowing that I desperately wanted to read it, I included it in my #BeatTheBacklistChallenge according to the rules set out by Austine Decker. Prompted by the promotion of #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek, I picked it up and am now kicking myself that I didn’t read it sooner!

The story of new Middle School student Mia is told in graphic novel format by autistic comic artist Rebecca Burgess and the authenticity of the story is deeply emotionally affecting. In my day job as a health librarian, I read many pieces of academic information about autism but the privilege of seeing the lived experience of an autistic individual portrayed with such clarity makes me deeply indebted to Rebecca Burgess. Through her words, and especially the pictures which show how thoughtless words or actions can initiate overwhelming sensory overload, this author educates and builds empathy in any reader. For anyone who wishes to expand their understanding of neurodiversity and make progress in their journey as an ally, I wholeheartedly recommend Speak Up!

In just over 260 pages we accompany Mia as she navigates the daily challenges of a middle school classroom, where her fellow pupils either ignore her because she is perceived as weird; make half-hearted attempts to include her but give up when she can’t find the right words to communicate with them; or actively bully her. Initially, Mia’s mum does not appear to have a firm understanding of her daughter’s individuality, constantly encouraging her to mask her autistic behaviours and try to blend in with the other pupils. The only person with whom Mia can be her true self is best friend Charlie, with whom she shares a huge secret; together they have created Mia’s alter ego, Elle-Q, an internet musical sensation with her emotive lyrics, superhero-style costumes and urban videos. However, even this relationship is almost fractured when Charlie enters them into a talent show which Mia does not think she can handle.

I was gripped by the realistic portrayal of “tween” life portrayed in this excellent graphic novel and its positive message about the importance of being your true self and finding joy in your unique gifts. The author does a great job of demonstrating possible motives behind bullying behaviour and similarly explains parental behaviour, leaving the reader with greater empathy for these characters too. I think that this would be an inspiring story for any autistic readers who wish to see their own experiences represented in literature. Finally, the gentle understanding and supportive action modelled by the organiser of the talent show towards Mia is a great example for all of us who want to improve our allyship skills. A fantastic book for readers of 11-14 and interested adults.

I would like to thank Harper360 and Antonia Wilkinson PR for my gifted copy of Speak Up! Views expressed here are entirely my own.

MG Review: Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Cover illustration by Laura Ellen Anderson, published by Farshore, 2nd February 2023.

The third and final book in the Rainbow Grey series is an epic final showdown between the good rainbow magic of Ray Grey and the dark, monotone forces of Weather Rogue, Tornadia Twist. Readers will be swept up in the story as easily as a leaf in a hurricane, there is destruction and peril to leave you clinging to the arms of your reading chair, but tempered with the humour, hope and honour that make a perfect read for children of 8 years and above.

Laura Ellen Anderson has written the perfect ending to Ray Grey’s journey from outsider to fully-fledged heroine in a series which introduces readers who are growing in confidence to the delights of following a character through a story arc across multiple books. However, knowing that purchasing books is likely to become a luxury for many families, I particularly applaud the succinct review of previous storylines in the opening chapter. This is so important when children are relying on library or classroom book collections and cannot always obtain books from a series in the correct order. Another great joy of all the Rainbow Grey books is the magnificent artwork on every single page, whether the borders decorated with weather symbols or the half- and full-page pencil illustrations which perfectly complement the energy of the text. The map of Celestia on the opening pages along with the magical descriptions of the setting brings the fantasy setting to life to such an extent that it becomes another character in the story.

Battle for the Skies begins with Ray and her two best friends, Snowden Everfreeze and Droplett Dewbells celebrating Pitter Patter Pancake Day in the canteen of Sky Academy where all the young Weatherlings are educated. Despite the festivities and utterly delicious pancakes, Ray is totally pre-occupied with the threat of Tornadia Twist. However, in an early illustration of her character, she doesn’t hesitate to show kindness to outcast twins Frazzle and Fump, demonstrating empathy in action to young readers, as she recalls her own recent “outsider” status. When the light is suddenly cut accompanied by purple lightning flashes and the destruction of the great sunflower and Sun Citadel, Ray realises that her worst fears have been realised. But even in the darkness there is hope, as the increasingly visible bright star, which embodies her former teacher La Blaze Delight, reminds Ray that she should never give up.

With the unfailing loyalty of her great friends, plus Nim the cloud cat, Coo La La the haughty pigeon who formerly belonged to La Blaze and new-found allies, Ray Grey embarks on her mission to end Tornadia’s quest for ultimate power over the weather. The page-turning action, hilarious meteorological wordplay, weather events which include snot-nados and relentless onslaught of Tornadia’s destructive powers make this a book that young readers will not want to put down. For those who care to examine the deeper layers of meaning, there is a supremely well-crafted message of the power of the natural world and the destructive forces that can be unleashed by the actions of the greedy and power-hungry. As I read of the razing of the sunflower fields and severing of the Cloudimulus Suburbs, I couldn’t help my mind turning to the images we are presented with daily from Ukraine. This is the superpower of great children’s literature, the ability to create empathy by engaging the imagination in an age-appropriate manner.

If you wish to put an immersive, satisfying adventure story into the hands of a reader of 8+, get hold of a copy of Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies, it will be published on 2nd February 2023 and is available for pre-order from all good bookshops and hopefully can be borrowed from a public library near you!

I am most grateful to Farshore Books and Liz Scott for sending me a review copy ahead of publication.

My review of Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm can be read here.

MGFiction Review: The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze

Cover image by Paddy Donnelly, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books,
19th January 2023

The Storm Swimmer is a contemporary Middle Grade novel with a fantasy element which explores issues of homelessness, family secrets and the importance of communication.

This is primarily the story of Ginika, an eleven year old of Nigerian heritage who in the summer between primary and secondary school finds herself unexpectedly ripped away from her familiar London landscape and sent to live with her maternal grandparents at their boarding house, Cormorant Heights, in Bridleways Bay. She had been looking forward to a carefree summer in the shadow of the Docklands Light Railway, rehearsing dance routines with her best friend Alisha, but now must adapt to life in a seaside town three hundred miles away. Moreover, she fails to understand why she cannot live with her parents in their camper van after their eviction from the flat that she has always known as home, and feels that she has been abandoned rather than given a chance to escape some of their hardships. Ginika realises that her parents are in more trouble than they are telling her, but the lack of communication results in fractured trust between her and the adults caring for her, leaving her full of frustration and resentment.

Spending the first day of her enforced “holiday” lying on the sand close to the water’s edge, Ginika spots a strange looking boy gliding through the waves with the ease of a dolphin. As subsequent days pass, she begins to develop a tentative friendship with this boy who appears to live in the sea, communicates in clicks and odd sounds, is dressed in seaweed and has webbed fingers and toes. A conversation with her grandad introduces her to the local legend of sea people who are said to visit the bay and thus begins aa adventure with Peri which will force Ginika to confront her deepest fears.

Integral to the narrative are two other tweens; Scarlett whose parents run the holiday park and Ted who is on an organised holiday at the park with other young hospital patients and their families. Ted is using a wheelchair as he recovers from treatment for a tumour on his spine and can empathise with Ginika’s feeling of being “other” in the small seaside community where she is the only person with black skin and Afro hair. On the surface Scarlett appears overly confident, always talking, always surrounded by a posse of three Olivias who are all on holiday at the caravan park and manipulating them and Ginika for her own convenience. However, as her story is explored, readers begin to see that she is probably quite lonely, with her parents and older sister working non-stop all summer to put on the best service for their guests; reliant on temporary friendships with holiday makers and manifesting her own rejection in controlling behaviour. We get a glimpse into her underlying kindness when she reprimands the Olivias for their inappropriate behaviour in commenting on and touching Ginika’s hair in one incredibly claustrophobic scene.

My impression is that the novel is written in an interestingly fractured style which I think highlights the sense of dislocation that Ginika is experiencing and that Peri must encounter to a far greater degree when he is transported from his usual environment to explore the town’s attractions with his human companion. (The book designers have kindly provided a map – always a positive feature for me – which is helpful during this section of the story). The slow process of working out how to communicate is a reflection of the need for Ginika to work out a way to communicate with her own family and the best friend that she has left behind in London. The undercurrents of secrets and unspoken fears swirl around the story and are as likely to knock the protagonists off balance as the undertow in Bridleways Bay. I liked the way that Ginika’s fears about predators which might harm Peri ran in parallel to her parents’ problems with loan sharks. The tension in the final third of the story blows up with the rapidity of a summer storm and the resolve of all three young protagonists is stretched to the limits as they try to reunite Peri with his family.

This is a story which is ideal for children of 11+ and really nicely fills the crossover gap between the final terms of primary school and the first year of secondary school. I would recommend it to Year 6 and Year 7 teachers for classroom book choices and the both primary and secondary school librarians. There is a short section at the end of the story where author Clare Weze provides background information on the natural history and science which underpins the adaptations that could allow Peri and the sea people to survive in a saline environment. This is pitched at just the right level to be understood by children in Year 6 and above and I am sure will interest those readers who have a fascination with science and the natural world.

I am most grateful to Bloomsbury Children’s Books and Liz Scott for sending me a copy of The Storm Swimmer in advance of publication on January 19th 2023.

Beat the Backlist Challenge 2023

Image created by Austine Decker
Children’s Books Backlist Shelf
Adult Books Backlist Shelf

I read about the Beat the Backlist Challenge on Mary’s Book Craic blog at the turn of the year and thought that the relaxed rules and chance to read the books that are still sitting on my shelves from last year sounded very appealing! The challenge was created in 2017 by Austine Decker and the full details are laid out in this blog post.

These are the essential rules:

  1. The book must be published in the previous year or earlier (for the 2023 challenge, anything published in 2022 or earlier counts).
  2. You have to start and finish the book in 2023.
  3. And that’s it!

Sharing on social media? Don’t forget the #BeatTheBacklist tag!

The challenge runs from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023.

I’ve decided to concentrate on one shelf of children’s books, the majority of these are books that I purchased but haven’t managed to read as I prioritised books sent to me to review. The second shelf are adult books which are approximately a 50:50 split between purchases and gifts. I belong to two book groups; three of the above books are on one of the reading lists for this year, so I should at least manage these!

On with the challenge!

Non-fiction review: Shadow Monsters & Courageous Hearts by Hayley Graham, illustrated by Tor Allen

Cover image by Tor Allen, published by Little Steps Publishing

As we see increasing reports in the media about the numbers of children suffering with mental health disorders, I am sure that this accessible text by experienced child psychotherapist, Hayley Graham, will be welcomed by many professionals working with children and young people, as well as parents and carers. This book is aimed at adults to enable them to start conversations with young people about mental health issues and is designed in a way that makes its use straightforward and accessible.

In the preface, the author is candid about experiencing her own mental health issues in her teens, following the loss of her mother, and how this has shaped her desire to help others. The book is in part a distillation of her own experiences combined with her lifelong love of stories. The format is interesting and I think many readers will find it easier to use than ploughing through a jargon-heavy psychotherapy text. Hayley Graham presents five emotionally meaningful short stories, each one carefully constructed to help children and their significant adults make sense of particular aspects of mental health. They are gentle stories, featuring animal protagonists and unpick the triggers to certain behaviours in an easily comprehensible way. The distinctive watercolour illustrations by Tor Allen add greatly to the experience of sharing these stories with a young person. Each story is followed by some suggested questions to encourage an open conversation. Then at the end of the book each story has a corresponding chapter which clearly explains the neuroscience behind each of the featured mental health challenges, providing practical techniques to help manage the issue.

The topics covered by the stories are: trauma, anxiety and OCD, attachment, shame and loss. There are top tips on how to begin talking about difficult topics and each of the stories provides the vocabulary which enables feelings and experiences to be expressed. At a time when mental health services are stretched and school staff are often left to try to deal with issues for which they have little or no training, I think that Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts will be a valuable resource.

You can view teachers’ notes for this book on the Little Steps Publishing website here.

I am most grateful to Little Steps for sending me a copy of Shadow Monsters and Courageous Hearts which I am very happy to recommend to teachers, librarians, school nurses and counsellors and anyone working to help children find the language to talk about mental health issues.

MG Review: Drumendus by Andrew Ashwin

Published by The Book Guild, autumn 2021

Drumendus is a fantastically imaginative middle grade, story bursting with musical references which whisks readers on a sci-fi voyage pulsating with sonic energy.

Twelve year old Ella Crinkle is held in higher esteem at her school for being the niece of famous astronauts Belinda and Otto Crinkle than for her musical performances on the trombone. Her relatives were the first humans to set foot on Earth’s sibling planet Drumendus, and now that strange weather events visible on the neighboring planet seem to be altering Earth’s meteorological conditions, her own obsession with Drumendus is growing even more intense. Fortunately, after one final excruciating assembly performance on her trusty brass instrument, the school holidays have arrived and that means the traditional week’s visit to eccentric Aunt Belinda’s home, Racket Lodge, where she will meet up with her best friend Freddie. 

As the two friends explore Belinda’s latest collection of bizarre inventions they find her most ambitious project to date in the greatly extended workshop – a spaceship in the shape of a grand piano, named Hammerklav. Before you can say “Holst’s Planets Suite”, the trio have blasted off through the workshop roof and set off on a mission to find Uncle Otto who was left behind on Belinda Crinkle’s last visit to Drumendus. What follows is a fast-paced, immersive adventure where every detail resonates with sound and music; names of people and places, the arrangement of tree house pods on ropes which resemble musical staves, and even the “sonorance” superpower that Uncle Otto has learnt how to harness to exert power over the native population.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story which I read in two sittings. The combination of the author, Andrew Ashwin’s musical knowledge with a beautifully imagined fantasy planet, a storyline of colonisation and resistance by a brave rebel tribe and some comedy set pieces featuring King Otto’s incompetent senior guards, Treble and Cloff make this a book that will grab the attention of middle grade readers. I can imagine that my own children would have enjoyed this had it been available when they were attending music lessons in primary school and I would encourage primary school teachers and librarians to put Drumendus into the hands of those pupils who enjoy music as well as those who enjoy an exciting fantasy adventure.

The author has a website dedicated to Drumendus available here where you can find out more about the musical inspiration behind the book. I am most grateful to Andrew Ashwin for sending me a copy of Drumendus in exchange for an honest review.