Review & Giveaway: The Ice Garden – Guy Jones (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

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‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Ice Garden
Author: Guy Jones (@guyjones80)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 224
Date of publication: 4th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1911490043

Perfect for Year 5 & Year 6.

1. Atmospheric ✨
2. Friendship 👫
3. Acceptance 😌

Jess is allergic to the sun.
She lives indoors in a world of shadows, peeking at other children from her curtained house. One night, she sneaks out. And there, just beyond the empty playground she’s longed to visit, she discovers an impossibility – a magical garden made of ice.

The first line:

They called it the Hat.

Review: Frozen out of going to school, going outside and making friends in the real world due to her allergy to the sun, Jess – pained and pitiful – finds herself becoming more and more frustrated with her life. Confined to being home-schooled and being routinely taken to hospital visits where the doctors don’t listen to her and her own mother doesn’t either, she’s stuck in a world where her emotions ice over, her confidence is often shattered and that darkens when it’s light.

So when it’s night time, it’s the perfect opportunity for Jess to defy her mother wishes, remove the Hat and secretly explore her city.  However, there’s more than a chill in the air when Jess discovers something greater than she could ever have imagined: an enchanted, frozen paradise in the form of a magical ice garden that transcends between this world and that. Behind the playground she’s familiar with, an altogether different kind of playground emerges that’s worlds apart from what she’s used to and it is here where she discovers a feeling of unburdening freedom in the most unlikeliest of places. I suppose you could call it her garden of Eden. And where she meets the most unlikeliest of friends…


First with Owen, a mysterious ice boy who she shares more than his ice garden with.
Then back at the hospital, with an unconscious boy called Davey who she shares more than her written stories with, as these soon become stories within a purely magical story. The connections between these characters stretch far beyond what is immediately apparent.

Despite this being what some would consider a short book, every word is worth its weight in gold. Metaphor is gloriously used throughout with my favourite examples being ‘The purple sky was streaked with brontosaurus ribs of white cloud.’ (p.44) and ‘The next day was like a held breath.’ (p.51). With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia, Guy has sculpted a sense of sumptuous sophistication within his writing which ensures that just as discovering The Ice Garden was a revelation for Jess, discovering Guy Jones’ writing will be a revelation for you.

A fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy adorned with hues of hope and heart that should be encouraged in to the hands of as many readers as possible. Even though this story may leave readers with the slightest feeling of cold hands, this will soon thaw to leave them too with the warmest of hearts. It’s an incredibly fine example of an atmospheric, tender and multi-layered tale that is at times bittersweet yet glistens with absolute grace. I can only hope that Guy will be writing many, many more as I am eagerly anticipating his next.

‘With scenes echoing more than that of The Secret Garden meeting The Chronicles of Narnia… this is a fantastical mix of magic and frozen fantasy across a literary landscape that glistens with absolute grace.’

Big thanks to Guy for sending me an advance copy of this beautifully written book!

The Ice Garden is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E



So to coincide with my review of The Ice Garden, I am delighted to say that Guy has kindly given me three copies of The Ice Garden to giveaway on Twitter. If you’d like a chance of winning this superb prize, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!



Review: Below Zero – Dan Smith (Illustrated by Steve Wells)

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Below Zero
Author: Dan Smith (@DanSmithAuthor)
Illustrator (Cover): Steve Wells (@SteveWellsArt)
Publisher: Chicken House (@chickenhsebooks)
Page count: 304
Date of publication: 4th January 2017
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1910655924

Perfect for: Year 5, Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

1. Chilling ❄️
2. Gripping ✊
3. Tense 😮

When Zak’s plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare. The power’s out and the people who live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else – deep beneath the ice – which only he can understand…

The first line:

There was something happening at Outpost Zero.

Review: Brace yourself because there’s no holding back as a sudden surge of panic pulls you in from the opening page to this already action-packed, arctic adventure as we encounter Sofia Diaz in a flashback three days ago from Outpost Zero. Sofia, the youngest member on base at Outpost Zero at fourteen years old, is stationed there with her family and seven others to participate in experimental training for the Exodus Project for a future life on Mars. However, a number of others are also there for altogether unexpected and unexplained reasons…

The pace of the story unrelentingly pulsates on, as we turn to the next chapter, with the attention switching to twelve-year-old Zak Reeves who is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sun with his family – Mum, Dad and older sister May – before he visits hospital for surgery for an as yet unnamed illness. From the start, there’s a sense of foreboding whereby we begin to notice that Zak is different. But it’s not until the end that we discover exactly how different he is.

Instead, the whole family have to cut their exotic holiday short to board a plane to the Antarctic in order to fix the ‘spider drones’ his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission as a result of them starting to mysteriously malfunction. As they arrive (…just!) on one of the last available planes in to Outpost Zero due to forecasted adverse weather conditions, they realise that things are about to go awry from the moment their plane crash lands in to the ice outside the research base whilst the whole site is plunged in to an abandoned and absolute darkness. This leaves Zak and his family finding themselves caught up in a flurry of fright and fear that will gradually end up with them fighting for their lives…

Throughout the story, the interchange of the dual narrative, which only adds to the suspense, between chapters backwards to Sofia Diaz and forwards to Zak in the present day continues. Further on, a triple narrative transpires as we are introduced to a new character known only by his alias, The Broker. It would be only maybe here that I could foresee any potential difficulties arising for some reading independently – particularly those readers closer to the lower age of recommendation – as they may be unsure of how to temper these three storylines occurring sequentially. But, by this point you’ll be feeling how I did where the sheer apprehension of what was about to happen to Zak next meant that you just have to read on to find out more with every turn of the page…

As the plot mysteriously shifts from the eerie and the sinister to the anxious and the downright heart-pounding, Zak makes a very important and other-wordly discovery about himself that’s been tormenting him ever since he got here.

Winter is not the only thing that’s coming for Zak…

As he starts to hear things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

But then he starts to feel things…
Tick-tack. Tick-tack.

And then he starts to see things…

A discovery, deep within his psyche, which culminates in an almost apocalyptic, catastrophic crescendo of a climax that would rival any of the battles from Star Wars (I know from the references dotted throughout the book that the author, Dan, is a huge fan!) as nearly all of the previously described characters – under the condemned instructions of The Broker – converge for one last time.

I particularly enjoyed the brother-sister relationship between Zak and May and it is portrayed perfectly in that they initially tease, argue, annoy and fight with each other and they might not declare an immediate fondness for each other all the time yet we recognise early on how important they are for each other and this comes to an all important head at the very end of the story.

Fraught with all of the most essential ingredients found in the best adventure stories (i.e. tension, high intensity and peril), the front cover warns you that ‘Your blood will run cold…’ so as Dan advises in Below Zero, ‘Be Prepared’ or failing that, at least listen to and try to adopt the unofficial motto and mantra of the US Marines and ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’.

Thank you to the lovely Dan Smith and Jazz Bartlett at Chicken House for sending me an early copy.

Below Zero is available to order now online or from any good bookshop.

‘A spine-tingling sci-fi adventure that both trembles and thrills whilst embodying all of the bite, chill and snap of the setting that it takes place in.’

Mr E