Dare YOU face the orcs? 80s game books Fighting Fantasy return

The role-playing adventure books sold 20m copies in the 80s, before being eclipsed by video games. Now they’re back with a new story by Charlie Higson, can they captivate the web generation?

Ian Livingstone calls it the “five-fingered bookmark”: that grip known to children of the 80s and 90s. You’d insert a finger into various sections of your Fighting Fantasy adventure game book in order to be able to return if, say, your choice to drink the “sparkling red liquid” and turn to section 98 turned out to be a bad one, or if attacking the Mirror Demon “from another dimensional plane” proved fatal.

“You used to see it on public transport everywhere,” says Livingstone, who with Steve Jackson dreamed up Fighting Fantasy back in the early 80s. “It’s like peeking around the corner. You can’t call it cheating – it’s taking a sneak peek.”

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Fiction for older children reviews – tales of the cities

London and New York both feature strongly in stories from both sides of the pond, while Room author Emma Donoghue makes her children’s fiction debutIn the UK, you wouldn’t want under-12s to have much contact with doormen – ours being burly negotiators who remove the ill-behaved from nightclubs. In New York, however, doormen are the guardians of gracious apartment buildings and, thus, civilisation itself. One such building is the star of The Doorman’s Repose, by Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka (Faber, £11.99), an urbane collection of New Yorker-ish short stories. It begins with a new doorman – who, disastrously, knows nothing about baseball – taking up his post. Otis, the elevator, plays matchmaker; Liesl, the boiler, loses her va-va-voom; the mice are into jazz and psychotherapy, and the humans in these droll, Lemony Snicket-like stories are only slightly less variegated. Continue reading...

Tilly and the Time Machine by Adrian Edmondson review – journey of discovery

The actor’s tale about a seven-year-old pursuing her dad through history is engaging and insightful Children’s publishing is awash with books written by celebrities. In the space of a few weeks this spring, Cara Delevingne, Dermot O’Leary, Alesha Dixon and George Galloway announced debut kids’ books. Meanwhile non-multi-tasking, professional authors complain about celebs cannibalising their marketing budgets and swallowing huge advances. So I felt a bit bad, after reading comedian-and-actor Adrian Edmondson’s enjoyable debut, for having been irked by the copy I received with its boastful cover stamp: “Very Important Proof”. Edmondson is not a novice with an unfair fame advantage: he has a career’s worth of TV writing credits (Bottom, The Comic Strip Presents… etc), and it shows in this sophisticated novel. Continue reading...

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans review – a riotously funny adventure

Recalling the magical escapades of Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll, this tale of a tyrannical toy rabbit is the first must-read children’s book of the yearChildren’s publishing is starting with a bang this year with the release of Lissa Evans’s latest children’s novel, a riotously funny adventure tale called Wed Wabbit. The story, ideal for readers aged 8-12, is about a girl called Fidge (short for Iphigenia), who lives with her dippy mother and four-year-old little sister Minnie. Minnie is obsessed with her furry red toy rabbit (the eponymous Wed Wabbit) and a picture book about the Wimbley Woos (an odd group of multicoloured creatures who speak only in verse), and the importance of these strange characters becomes more apparent as the plot progresses. When Minnie is involved in a car accident, Fidge is sent to live with her hilariously pampered cousin Graham, where she falls down some cellar ...

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – review

‘a fantastic book that made me laugh and actually cry. I loved it’ I loved The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey. It was very easy to get into the story, and even though a few of the words were a little hard to understand, it didn’t matter because it was so well written. I really liked that the chapters were written by different characters’ perspectives, because it made you empathise with them more. I hope there is a sequel. It does end on a cliffhanger, so I am assuming that that is what will happen, because if there is not another book, I am afraid I will rate this book lower than what I am rating it now. Continue reading...

The 100 by Kass Morgan – review

‘An absolutely fascinating read, I haven’t read anything similar’ During the nuclear war on earth, the Earth developed a radioactive surface, and for centuries afterwards what was left of humanity lived in spaceships above Earth’s surface. One hundred juvenile delinquents are to be sent to Earth to re-colonise and discover if it is possible to live on the thought-to-be-uninhabitable planet, but they are all expected to die. They survived. The ships had started to run low on food supplies and air, so they are hoping to inhabit earth once again. Continue reading...

And I Darken by Kiersten White – review

‘I need a sequel!’ Kiersten White seemed to pour her mind into And I Darken. The words and plot flow as though they didn’t even need editing! I find each new person introduced in this book extremely charismatic – whether they were written to be daunting and fearless or sweet and sappy. Every personality is unique and realistic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the characters were at least partly based on real people. Continue reading...

Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley – review

‘The characters are very vividly imagined and are most entertaining’ Elizabeth Camperdowne lives in Tudor England with her father and very strict aunt in a crumbling castle: Stonetron Castle. Destined to be married off at a very young age, our red-haired twelve-year-old heroine has before her a future of an arranged marriage to a man many years older than herself, and looking after her children to continue the family line. Then her future husband turns out to be an 18-year-old drunk, who has secretly married a chambermaid. Elizabeth does not conform, and due to her bad behaviour, she is sent to Trumpton Hall, a school for rich young ladies to learn manners. There she meets her cousin, Katherine Howard. Continue reading...

The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair by Lara Williamson – review

‘although the subject is bereavement this is not at all a depressing read and has some genuinely laugh out loud moments’ Becket Rumsey, his brother Billy and a snail called Brian have some serious investigating to do! The mystery began when their father took them away in the middle of the night, without Pearl (best step-mum) knowing anything about it. Without any explanation from their father, Beckett and Billy (and Brian) are left in the dark so they create “SNOOP” – Secret Network of Observations, Operations and Probing. In a series of hilarious yet vital “missions”, SNOOP set about finding Pearl. There are some twists and turns that you don’t see coming and although the subject matter is bereavement this is not at all a depressing read and has some genuinely laugh out loud moments. Continue reading...

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – review

‘written in such a mesmerising way and it keeps you turning the page consistently’ The powerful nation of Ravka was torn apart by the Shadow Fold (a mass of impenetrable darkness riddled with monstrous beings that would infest your nightmares forever if you ever saw one) centuries ago. However when Alina Starkovv and her regiment is attacked travelling through it, many people are killed and others screaming, terrified of the horror occurring around them. Alina soon becomes terrified of the impending darkness and the regiment is bathed in holy light that has been dormant since her childhood. So Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, suddenly thrown into a lavish world that is peculiar to her. But Alina welcomes her powers, after many infuriating training sessions with Baghra screaming at her. Alina becomes a beacon of hope for the country and a weapon of ...

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters – review

‘The inclusion of photographs of relevant scenes and objects also helped to make the novel more vivid’ Hanalee Denny is a daring and fearless heroine, striding around her home town of Oregon with a pistol strapped to her leg as she quietly grieves the loss of her father, who died in an accident when hit by a drunk driver. As the curtains open, we see her on the hunt for Joe, the man who killed her father and who has recently been released from prison. He has something to tell her about the circumstances of her father’s death, and she leaves the meeting with her head spinning with thoughts of murder. Now everyone is under suspicion, and the only way to find the true culprit is to speak with her father – or his ghost at least. Her troubles don’t end there, for as a biracial girl in 1920s Oregon, ...

Time Travelling With a Hamster by Ross Welford – review

‘it kept me pondering over the mind boggling concept of time travel, which is made about as believable as it ever could be’ Al (short for Albert Einstein Hawking Chaudhury) lives with his mother, his step-dad Steve, his half-sister Carly and his amazing Grandpa Byron. His grandpa has an incredible talent for being able to remember anything and everything! Al’s father, a scientist and inventor specialising in the theory of time travel, died when Al was just 8. Using his Dad’s makeshift time machine – a laptop attached to a tin tub from a garden centre – Al ( accompanied by his pet hamster, Alan Shearer) tries to stop the seemingly inevitable from happening, therefore preventing the death of his father. Continue reading...

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis – review

‘Her in-depth research makes this book very real’ This book is set in the Congo where Imara is the black mamba’s spirit child. It is said that to look into her eyes is to see your death. She survived the bite of a black mamba, which usually has fatal consequences, and this proved to black mamba, the leader of the Mamba rebel tribe, that she is the devil’s child and converses with the sprits. Bobo is a ranger’s son; he, like his father, loves gorillas, so when he encounters Imara looking after a baby gorilla called Kitwana, he feels it is his duty to protect the animal from the rest of the Mamba tribe. Only Bobo sees that Imara is good at heart despite having the reputation of the devil itself. Continue reading...

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange – review

‘This book is an interesting read and I think if you are a fan of books such as Perfectionist by Sara Shepherd, this would be a gripping read’ Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is a story about an extraordinary night where four teenagers, who are initially strangers to one another, are brought together due to an unfortunate event. This book is actually in flashback form and is narrated by one of the main characters.
They run away from the police for all the wrong reasons which makes them seem guilty but did they actually break the law? Four people who never acknowledged each other’s presence; the rebel, the bully, the geek and the pariah, are speeding down a highway in a stolen police car. The same police car that was used to hit a police man and also contains a trunk full of drugs. Every step they take somehow backfires and ...

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman – review

‘Gaiman’s unassailable skill at storytelling is the moon-silver thread that binds all his writing together’ At the very start of this collection, in one of his characteristically lengthy introductions, Neil Gaiman apologises profusely for the lack of cohesion in genre, period, subject matter or any other connection between the several short stories included in Trigger Warning. It’s true, we really do have it all; from stories about dwarves on quests for cursed gold, imaginary girls turning up in real life, poems about furniture construction, to the tale of a man called Shadow and a black dog – there seems no end to Gaiman’s scope. Yet I would argue that there is a trend running through all of these fables and fictions: Neil Gaiman’s unassailable skill at storytelling. It’s the moon-silver thread that binds all his writing together - this sometimes light, sometimes heart-hammering, always enthralling kind of tint to his ...

Goblins, Goblins vs Dwarves and Goblin Quest by Philip Reeve – review

‘I rate all three books as five stars, so really this is a 15 star review for Philips Reeve’ Clovenstone is a mysterious place full of lost magic and forbidden places. By lost magic I mean sorcerers such as the Lynch Lord once ruled over all Clovenstone. Clovenstone is a castle protected by a wall and in the very middle is a keep, home to the Goblins and what a boisterous lot they are. They are split into towers and are always fighting, looting, eating, and fighting more, that is pretty much all they do. Continue reading...

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt and Ross Collins – review

‘This book is action-packed, hilarious and quirky’ This book is action-packed, hilarious and quirky. It is about a girl called Mabel Jones, who after doing something a little disgusting is sucked up into a magical world with pirates and ends up as part of the motley crew on the ship, The Feroshus Maggot. In order to make it home she helps the captain get the missing parts of the mysterious pieces of X. On the voyage she faces lots of different and exciting trials such as challenging a ferocious bear to a milk drinking contest. I found this book really hilarious, especially the narrator who pauses the story at an exciting bit to talk about pickled onions. The narrator does lots of funny things, such as interviewing the mysterious figure who is about to kidnap Mabel Jones and using odd similes such as “quiet as a peanut and sneaky as ...

Whisper to Me by Nick Lane – review

‘an amazing, eye-opening book that was so gripping that I read it in one go’ Whisper to Me is an amazing, eye-opening book that was so gripping that I read it in one go. I like the way that it’s written as one long email so there are no chapters as such. I prefer it like this because it makes the story continuous and without breaks, which is what makes it more gripping. It has very interesting and contrasting characters that are very believable and the plot is very tense and has lots of twists in it. Continue reading...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time by Mark Haddon – review

‘It is one of those stories, like To Kill a Mockingbird, that I feel everyone should know about’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time is an incredible rollercoaster of a tale, written in the voice of a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome called, Christopher Boone After discovering his neighbour’s dog has been murdered, he sets off to find out who the murderer could be. On this quest, he discovers far more than he anticipated... Some people struggle to deal with Christopher because he can be so uncompromising but I found him rather loveable. He is also completely true to himself, brilliant and like his hero Sherlock Holmes, driven by logic not emotion. Continue reading...

City of Thirst by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis – review

‘The book is cool because their parallel world is so well imagined and described’
This is the second book about Fin, a boy who lives on the Pirate Stream, a magical parallel world, and Marrill, who one day gets on a ship which ends up in the Pirate Stream. In the first book Marrill meets Fin, who is unable to be remembered by anyone except her. He grew up in an orphanage and his quest is to find his mother and to be remembered. Marrill goes back to the Pirate Stream in this second book as she gets a message that her world is in danger. She and her babysitter are sent to the stream in the babysitter’s car.
They meet up with Fin on the ship from the first book. It’s owned by Ardent, a wizard. In this story they try to find out about the mysterious Iron Tide, ...