Cover Image: The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I received this from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. 

This is the sort of book that I was genuinely thrilled about. It’s a fantasy, but it’s also a mystery, and it sounded really cute. The idea is just great. Sadly, for me, the execution was a little obvious and tropey. Still a great read but not quite what I hoped for. Though super bonus points for having the fantasy be sort of sciencey and really encouraging that way of thinking!

Kip is really unhappy with life when we meet him, he’s had to move and has no friends and a stereotypically awful new school. So much so I got vague Matilda vibes (not that that’s a bad thing, mind). The riddles and mystery of getting to the school were really fun, and once there his life is luckily much happier!

Kip’s friends are good fun, though amused by how easily Leela and Timmi fold in given the apparent age difference. I kept forgetting they were so much older. The way the lessons work is a nice way of letting us see into the world and how things work, without showing us everything. I’d have loved a little more detail, but that’s because I’m a giant nerd and found the concept really fascinating. 

Eartha’s riddles were definitely the high point for me - they were complex and well thought out while not being totally improbable that two first-year newbies would solve them before adults. 

However, there were things I found very obvious - the bullies and bad guy elements didn’t surprise me at all. 

I’m definitely intrigued by the rest of kip’s storyline though - I’m dying to know more in fact! Part of the reason I’ll be picking up book two for sure. This is a fun series with real potential. 3.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
Up a tree waiting for his Chess Club to start, Kip Bradley is given a strange looking coin by a drone that seems to be breathing. It’s a great start that quickly gets the reader wanting to know what is going on. Kip wants to know too and he loves solving puzzles. The answer to this leads him to a place at Quicksmith’s College of Strange Energy where everyone is not just learning about their Strange talents but trying to solve a series of puzzles set 400 years ago by the school founder, genius Eartha Quicksmith. Kip and his new friends, along with their pets try to solve the puzzles too but soon they are in great danger.  There’s a strange fantastical school, wormholes in space and time, eccentric teachers, cute animals and a new adventure with every riddle to keep readers engaged. This fas-paced fantasy adventure, the first in a new series, is perfect for children 8+. If you loved, Hogwarts, then don’t miss Quicksmiths!
Was this review helpful?
DNF. I couldn't connect with this book at all and found it really hard to get into. I had high hopes for this, which is a shame.
Was this review helpful?
A real gripping tale from beginning to end. Excellent characters who feel very real and cute magical creatures. Suspense, mystery, villains, adventure and magic. This story has everything you could possibly want topped off with stunning examples of friendship and moral dilemmas. Puzzles throughout the book throw you in amongst the drama and as the time runs out, you find yourself reading with the same sense of urgency that the characters face. Cannot wait for the next one!
Was this review helpful?
Kip, having recently moved house, is quite a solitary child:  he loves doodling squiggles, climbing trees, playing chess and solving puzzles, but he is unhappy and out of place at his new school.  He worries about his mum, in hospital since a lightning strike that led to the disappearance of his older sister.  When solving some puzzles leads him to an Open Day, he is offered a place at a very unusual school, where everyone has gifts that tap into Strange Energy, and riddles must be urgently solved in ten days in order to rediscover the “Ark of Ideas” of the school’s founder, Eartha Quicksmith.
A little like a science fiction Hogwarts, the school is the vividly described setting for a tale of friendships and rivalries in the perilous race to solve the riddles and save Eartha’s heritage.  Readers will empathise with Kip’s love and concern for his family and the challenges he faces to finally accept and recognise the value of his very particular skills.
Exciting, heart-warming and shot through with humour, this is an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is fun, fantastical and encourages an interest in, and love of, STEM subjects. Loris Owen's combination of science fiction and science fact makes for a thrilling reading experience and I'm sure that If I learned new things from this book, a child surely will. 

Alongside Kip, the reader leaves the mundane of ordinary school life and takes up residence at a boarding school unlike any other. With the help of new friends and his flying squirrel Pinky, Kip tackles ten riddles over the course of the book. With each puzzle, Kip draws ever closer to the Ark of Secrets, but also unwittingly delves deeper into dangerous territory.

While Quicksmiths is a unique world, Owen's approaches world-building in a way that is richly layered utilising not only descriptions of the visual but also incorporating unique language. In doing so, Quicksmiths becomes so much more real for the reader and makes them feel a part of the action, including them as though they too are a student at Quicksmiths themselves.

Where wormholes, time loops and the A.I GENI preside, who knows what else could be possible at Quicksmiths. This book is perfect for fans of Harry Potter but offers a fresh, modern take on the boarding school book which will definitely appeal to the tech-savvy young readers of today.
Was this review helpful?
Another book which purports to be suitable  for children between the ages of 8 and 12 when in fact there shouldn't be a top range limit...I (65) loved it! This is the story of Kip who lives with his dad, his elder sister is missing following a strange accident which left his mother in a dissociative state. Kip is great at chess and puzzles, he is not so good at coping with the bullies (both teacher and student) at his school. However things change when Kip is invited to attend a boarding school for gifted children. He makes friends there and the whole school is involved in a race against time, to solve 10 riddles in 10 days and regain the knowledge of Eartha Quicksmith which could benefit the world in wonderful ways and may give Chip the chance to cure his mother.

Loris Owen has written a spectacular first book in a series,  it's exciting,  mysterious and marvellous. If you want to know what happens to Kip and his friends, you must read the book and I promise you that won't be a hardship.  Surprises are in store and I think that Chip and his friends will gather a huge following of fans, I am definitely one of them!
Was this review helpful?
I can rarely resist a magical middle-grade read, especially at this time of year for some reason, so I was delighted when I was approved for this one by the wonderful people are Firefly Press.

Kip Bramley has never fitted in at school and when his older sister goes missing and his mother gets ill, he, his father Theo and pet flying squirrel (yes, really!) Pinky move to London, where inevitably, Kip doesn’t fit in either. Kip has always loved puzzles and little beknownst to him, he is about to be scouted for the most exclusive academy for unusual thinkers there is -Quicksmiths, where a centuries-old enigma is about to unfold.

The idea of Strange Energies is so intriguing and I recognised it immediately as that ‘something’ that I can always sense in the atmosphere and from the corner of my eye, so I’m sure that enthusiastic young readers will too. Like Kip, I wanted to uncover all the scientific mysteries that lay within Quicksmiths’ walls.

One of my favourite things about this book was how it was so clearly a celebration of childhood wonder and the magic of being young. Kip himself has more than his fair share of problems within his family and home life and it’s his determination to help his mum that drives his passion to do well. Although even Quicksmiths has its bullies, Kip and his new friends make little acknowledgement to the ills of the world. So I too got caught up in the whimsical slice of escapism that it allowed me to indulge in.

I think my favourite character was Leela, a vibrant, happy-go-lucky girl and her fantastically strange companion known simply as ‘the mowl’. I’m still not entirely sure exactly what animals the mowl is made up of but we learn that he is the result of a failed lab experiment. The inclusion of unusual creatures as loyal companions was a smart move on the author’s part because I think they add an unique charm to the story in a way that regular animal friends don’t. They’re also exactly the kind of animals that will spark the interest of bright, curious, young minds.

The main action kicks in when Eartha Quicksmith’s letter from 400 years ago is read out and a quest to solve the riddles that she has left littered around the academy sends everyone into overdrive. It took them a long time to solve the first three riddles but then they seemed to solve them every chapter or so and to be honest, I really wanted this part to slow down. I wanted it to eke out but sadly it didn’t. I did enjoy the final twist though and shook my fist at the trickery that unfolded! 

I’m assuming that The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is the first in a series because a lot was left open at the end. I would love to get some answers as to what happened in Kip’s family. There was a sense of hope that things would get better for his mum and I’d love to watch that develop. 

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is a fun, whimsical, sciencey adventure that is perfect for Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl fans. I could have definitely had the riddle solving spread over multiple books rather than packing it all into one but I’m excited to see what Loris Owen has planned for the rest of the series.
Was this review helpful?
Isn’t that just such an exciting synopsis! Now I’m a lover of a book full of riddles and mysteries. I’m 100% there for any book with that at its core. Add the whimsy of children’s fiction, and a dash of sci-fi and it’s a guaranteed win for me.

I loved the science within this story. The school at the heart of it has the vibes of a magical school but rather than magic it has an awesome scientific system behind it.

There’s a great cast of characters here. Kip is a fantastic protagonist and I love the friends he makes along the way. Pinky the flying squirrel is obviously the star of the show though!

I really liked that there were moments here of what felt like real danger. As a reader your constantly being kept on your toes not knowing how they can possibly get out of the latest situation!

The level of the riddles was spot on. None of them were super obvious, but they didn’t feel too ridiculous (I’m sure kids are much smarter than me as well!)
Was this review helpful?
It was a highly enjoyable read that can be appreciated by both adults and children.
I loved this story, the friendship amongst the characters and had fun at solving the riddles.
It's well written and entertaining, recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Was this review helpful?
In my humble opinion, Firefly Press have turned out some of the best middle-grade books of 2020. So, when I got the opportunity to review The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith via Netgalley, I jumped at the chance. 

How glad I am that I did. This is everything that I would have wanted in a book as a young reader; mystery, adventure and...puzzles!

When squirl-drawing Pip Bramley is sent a cryptic invitation by a beetle drone, he doesn't realise that he'll soon be embarking on a new life at Quicksmiths School of Strange Energies. Soon, he and his new friends are embroiled in a race against time to solve the ten riddles of the legendary Eartha Quicksmith in order to locate the long hidden 'Ark of Ideas'. Pip desperately hopes that it may be the key to healing his mum. But there are others determined to beat him too it. 

Riddles may be hard to solve but they must be even harder to write and set-up. Loris Owen does an amazing job of keeping the characters and the readers on their toes with brilliantly seeded puzzles that are challenging, clever and unbelievably imaginative. The plot is pacey and completely immersive and I love how this book takes so many middle-grade classics -boarding school, friendship, long-hidden secrets- and turns them on their head to give a fresh, original feel. The boarding school teaches pupils about 'Strange Energies' - science not magic (although there is a definite magical quality to the story), the four friends are all gifted and talented, and their clever inventions places the historical aspect of the story hand in hand with the future. 

Pip is a great protagonist; likeable, easy-going but with a strong motivation to soak up everything he learns at Quicksmiths. His partnership with the amusing Albert works brilliantly and Leela and Timmi, along with Mowl and Pinky, complete the group nicely. Pip's past is sad, but in a slightly different way to those we have encountered in other MG stories, and his family history evokes a lot of emotion and investment in the story. Thag is the typical school bully, targeting Pip's group at every turn, but there's a good twist at the end. 

For me though, Eartha Quicksmith and her riddles are the star of the show here. The unravelling of the riddles is spectacular. With giant globes and secret studies, ominous clockwork knights and pirate ships shaped out of dust, it did remind me of the first Harry Potter book where the three main characters race to find the philosophers stone. 

There are a lot of awesome extras in this novel too, too numerous to mentions. Scaleface, the mysterious Prowler, doesn't feature much in the story but enough to create just the right amount of fear. Then there are the Skimmis, the curious teachers, the's just packed with excitement and imagination. I would have liked to read far more descriptions of the food, cooked by Chef Garibaldi, as what was mentioned sounded deliciously unusual. 

The set-up implies that there is probably more to come from this very talented author and welcome that with open arms. The standard of middle-grade this year has been astounding and this is right up there with the best. 

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is released on Spetember 10th 2020 and is available for pre-order. A big thanks to Firefly Press and Netgalley for giving me the chance to review.
Was this review helpful?
There's a popular trend in middle-grade books that sees a young hero discover a world of magic and monsters, being whisked away on some kind of adventure, or even to a magical school, where they learn all about this new world. This has been a popular trend for years, even before Harry Potter came along and got famous doing it. In a plethora of books that follow this kind of 'chosen one going to a special school' genre it can take something special to make it feel new and interesting, and this is precisely what Loris Owen has managed to do with The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith.

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith follows Kip, a young teen who's recently moved to a new school in London when his father relocates for work. It's been just the two of them for a few years, ever since Kips sister disappeared and his mother suffered a nervous breakdown that has left her in a care facility. Kip's a fairly bright young student, and loves solving puzzles and playing games, but is finding it difficult to make any friends. 

When he's suddenly approached by a mysterious drone and receives a strange coin he begins to discover a puzzle that leads him to Quicksmith's a hyper advanced school dedicated to Strange Energy, a branch of science that most of the world is unaware of, let alone unable to understand. Kip is told that he has an affinity for understanding Strange Energy, and is offered a place at the school.

Like I said, it's not a huge leap to see how this book is similar to things like The Worst Witch, but it being focused on science and technology rather than magic immediately gives the book a feel that's all its own. There's not teleportation spells, there's wormholes; there''s not broomsticks, but flying hover boards. Things that you come to expect from similar stories are given a fresh new coat of paint, and it feels so much more creative because of it. Okay, some of the science isn't fully explained, and is so far advanced and does some miraculous things that it might as well be magic, but I'm quicker to believe that someone with a different grasp of time can create a device that can temporarily freeze people over someone waving a wand or saying a magic word.

This refresh of the genre also play into the plot in ways that make it new and exciting. There's not some vague magical prophecy that sets Kip on an adventure, but a series of events set up centuries before by a scientist so smart she was able to bend space and time and see what was going to happen. It means that Kip isn't special because he's fulfilling some mystical role, but because he's a smart person, who thinks quickly on his feet, someone just saw him doing this by peering into the future.

Kip, and his schoolmates, are given a special task when a series of puzzles set up hundreds of years ago begin. Eartha Quicksmith, the school founder, was a scientist ahead of any of her peers, and has a hidden cashe of research and technology that was hidden away and never found. Now the school had just ten days to solve the ten riddles that will lead them to her ark, and her secret technology. Whilst some are searching for the ark for glory, others to be able to discover secrets that could advance humanity's understanding of Strange Energy; but Kip is different. He's hoping to find something inside that can help to make him mum better.

This selflessness and desire to heal his mother makes Kip an incredibly kind and sympathetic hero. So often we get characters who want to go and have an adventure, or are pushed into situations by events or forces outside of their control, but Kip is different. He doesn't really want to be putting himself and his friends at risk, but his desire to have his mother back outweighs that. There are times during the book where Kip thinks that his time at Quicksmiths might be over, or that something could happen to take him out of the quest, and his only thought in those moments is that he's letting his mother down. His drive to save someone he loves is so relatable and so pure that it makes him one of the noblest middle-grade heroes I've read in a long while.

The book manages to keep events moving at a really good pace, and keeps the reader interested throughout. It also packs in plenty of excitement and surprises, along with a host of supporting characters that are a load of fun in their own right. Thankfully, it seems that not everything is fully resolved by the end of the book, and there are plenty of threads left hanging for future instalments. I hope this is something that's going to happen, as I'd love to read more about Kip, and his mission to save his family.
Was this review helpful?
Kip lives with his father, Theo, after his sister went missing years ago at the same time his mother was hit by lightning - she hasn't been the same since and Kip is still coming to terms with that.  Following a string of strange puzzles that seem to find their way to him, Kip is introduced to the world of Quicksmith's College of Strange Energy where children can explore their unique way of thinking and seeing the world.  just after Kip and his new-found friends arrive at the school, a 400 year old letter from the founder of the school, Eartha Quicksmith, is revealed to everyone.  It contains information about 10 riddles that are hidden around the school that need to be solved within the next 10 days - suddenly everybody is on the case. 

Friendships play a big part of this book as Kip has been desperately unhappy and lonely in his new school.  Finding his roommate, Albert, as well as the girls, is huge for Kip and gives him a sense of belonging.  There is a wide range of other personalities to get to know, from quirky professors to some rather unusual characters, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how they each evolve as the series progresses.

This is a fast-paced adventure that combines magic and science in an entirely new world where science isn't quite as we know it; from thoughtwaves to wormholes, this is a place that will intrigue readers.  And the college itself is somewhere I can imagine children will be desperate to go to, from the dorm rooms to eating in the Buttery, the different classrooms and everything the grounds holds, readers will be enchanted!

The big plot that runs through the book is that of locating and solving the ten clues that have been hidden.  Each clue is revealed so that the reader can try to work out the answer for themselves ... if they can!  This helps to add an extra element to the story and will definitely keep readers gripped.

There is obviously much more to come in this series and I'm looking forward to returning to the world of Quicksmith's to see what Kip and his friends will encounter next.

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is due for release on the 10th September.
Was this review helpful?
This was very slow. It took a good quarter of the book before the story properly got going. The puzzles were fun but the plot could have done with a lot more pace.
Was this review helpful?
A fast-paced adventure imbued with the true magic of science and all the limitless possibilities of the world. You can't help but read this and imagine that anything is possible and there's still so much of the world to discover.

Kip is a young boy who lives with his father. His sister has been missing for years and his mother hasn't been the same since a strange lightning-strike affected her memory. One day, Kip receives a strange riddle from a drone, and the riddle leads him to an entirely new world, that of Quicksmith's College of Strange Energy. It's a place for people who think differently to everyone else, where science is the magic behind everything. Once enrolled, the entire college becomes engrossed in a 400-year-old riddle set by Eartha Quicksmith herself, and there are ten riddles to solve in ten days!

There were so many great things to love about this book, one of them being the characters. Kip is a great young protagonist to follow with his family life always keeping him grounded and relatable. His need to help his mother is endearing and makes you want to root for him even more. Albert is a new friend that Kip makes at the College and I really enjoyed their friendship, they had great chemistry. Leela and Timmi are two young girls who become friends with Kip and Albert, and together, they all try to solve the riddles before everyone else. Leela and Timmi are also nice additions to the cast. 

The main draw for this book is the entire world-building. The concept is rather big and I think Owen did a good job at conveying that in this story. There are wormholes and timeslips and thoughtwaves and slipstreams and so much more! The teaching at Quicksmiths is so cool and really makes me want to attend. This book will make people want to go to the Quicksmiths College of Strange Energy like how the kids of my generation desperately wanted to go to Hogwarts. I love the locations there, the atmosphere - all of it.

The plot really got kicked into high gear once Eartha's 400-year-old riddle came into play. It was fun to see how the characters would tackle each challenge and come up with solutions. I feel proud of myself for using my brain and suggesting solutions to the riddles (I was only right once, and that was on the first riddle, after that, I had no clue), and this will be such an engaging book for people who struggle to stay interested in a book. I can safely say the intrigue is kept way up once the riddle-solving begins to happen.

This is the first in a series so not everything is solved (hehe) in this book. There were some interesting turns by the end and I don't really know where this is going to go, so I am very interested in seeing how this series develops.
Was this review helpful?
The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is an engaging mystery full of riddles, puzzles and unusual energies. Right from the start, Kip is challenged to “Change Your World” as he follows strange clues around his neighbourhood. Who is sending these clues? Why him? Where are they leading?
Kip already lives a life of turmoil and loss. He and his dad try to make a happy life for themselves in London with his pet flying squirrel, Pinky, but everything they do is overshadowed by those who are no longer there. Kip finds it so difficult to fit in at school and find his group. Perhaps this will finally be his chance to discover where he truly belongs.
This is a story so many children will identify with. Those who feel alone, knowing there is something special about themselves that no one else really understands. Children who love a challenge intellectually and thrive on solving puzzles will be pulled in from the very first page. The treatment of abstract concepts such as energy and time is fascinating and presents a whole new theory to think about.
As Kip and his new friends strive to discover the secrets on the universe, science beyond science and art beyond art, they find so much more than they bargained for. They must look at things from a new perspective and take responsibility for the things that are precious to them.
Was this review helpful?
This would be a great book for able, but reluctant readers - especially those with a love of science and maths. Loris Owen creates a wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems. Kip has a deep secret which takes some time to be revealed alongside the mystery energy that he has to learn about. There are many familiar story lines: dysfunctional family, gifted child, boarding school with mysterious characters and stereotypical bullies; however, there is so much more to this book.

I found the first couple of chapters a little hard to get into, but once I was sucked into Kip's new world I was intrigued to carry on. I love the clues and code breaking skills that this story required and know many of the pupils at my school will really enjoy the challenge of trying to figure them out.

The world that Owen creates is familiar and yet very different to anything I have read recently and I would recommend this fantastic read to able Y5 readers and above.
Was this review helpful?
Packed full of action, amazing world building and plenty of puzzles, The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is a fun, magical story which children will love. Here are three reasons you should be buying it as a back-to-school gift. 

1. The world building is complex and detailed. Full of fun facts and jokes, the world of Quicksmith academy is one all children will want to visit. It's a school full of endlessly fascinating new discoveries where curiosity and inventiveness are championed. There is so much to get your head around and I really hope there is more to come.

2. Kip and his friends all have different strengths and each is vital to their eventual success. Their accomplishments are a team effort, and its nice to see everyone's differences and individual talents celebrated. Quicksmiths is a place where everyone is special in their own way. Kip's backstory is also extremely touching, and a real driving force throughout the novel. 

3. As the title suggests, The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith is full of tension, excitement and puzzles. The riddles helped keep tension and stakes high and made me desperate to keep reading once they started. The pace of this story definitely picks up once the first riddle appears and it was during the hunt for clues that this novel really shone.
Was this review helpful?
The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith intrigued me right from the beginning and quickly launched into a world filled with ‘strange energy’ (a concept I want to know more about).  The magical and scientific explanations created a fantastic world and concept that is sure to hook any reader.  I read this book in one sitting as I am sure many others will, furiously wanting to know more and get to the end.

The story was fast paced and kept you wanting more throughout.  I particularly enjoyed the riddles and it was fun to try and think how they might be solved.  The characters were likeable and Kip’s plight throughout kept me engaged in the story.  I just really hope there’ll be another story in this world!
Was this review helpful?
From the first minute I saw the cover, I was intrigued by this book. I couldn’t put it down! So excited to share this one with my new class in September!
Was this review helpful?