THE SWALLOWS’ FLIGHT by Hilary McKay (Macmillan £12.99, 304 pp)


by Hilary McKay (Macmillan £12.99, 304 pp)

This companion piece to McKay’s superb, Costa award-winning The Skylarks’ War moves the Penrose family on a generation to the 1930s and the build-up to World War II.

Fiercely wonderful Clarry returns, now a teacher and godmother to her niece, Kate, and Ruby, her friend’s daughter, and in the background again hovers the enigmatic, charismatic Rupert.

The book opens with two German boys whose journey to become Luftwaffe pilots contrasts with the dreams and hopes of the British youth, but eventually their stories coalesce.

The short chapters, told from each character’s viewpoint, gradually create an intricate mosaic of wartime experience. Although it works perfectly as a stand-alone, do — if you haven’t yet — read The Skylarks’ War first.

Meticulously researched, intelligent, warm and witty — this is McKay at her peerless peak.


by Ross Mackenzie (Andersen Press £7.99, 336 pp)

Mackenzie’s Evernight was one of my favourite books of last year and in this sequel the heroic witch Larabelle Fox returns with her loyal friend, Joe, after saving the Silver Kingdom from evil.

But dark forces are again on the rise in the Veil forest and murders are being covered up as the King plans a grand feast.

Suspicion for the deaths falls on Lara’s friend Double Eight — who is missing — so she must find him to prove his innocence.

Mackenzie’s imaginative ability to create a fantasy world is limitless and, although it helps to be familiar with the first book in this series, the sheer energy and charm of the characters propel the plot at breakneck speed — and the reader with it.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE END OF THE WORLD by Emily Barr (Penguin £7.99, 368 pp)


by Emily Barr (Penguin £7.99, 368 pp)

The news is devastating — the earth is running out of clean air to breathe and in less than a year most people will die. Reserved, quiet, 16-year-old Olivia lives with her mum and stepdad who suggest they spend their last summer in Spain.

At the same time, her real father reveals she has an estranged cousin of a similar age, Natasha, who visits and introduces Olivia to a thrilling world of dares and hustles that threatens to divide her from her family.

Barr is always good on the emotional complexities of adolescence and the environmental backdrop here adds a dramatic urgency to a tense exploration of how to live a life true to your self.

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