The Secret of the Moonshard

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Pub Date 29 Feb 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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'Sensational storytelling' - AF Steadman, author of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief.

The gripping new magical adventure from Branford Boase winner Struan Murray.

Domino has lived her whole life believing that just one drop of magic could kill her.

Held in a floating laboratory by scheming Science Barons, she has never known a single day of freedom.

When Domino discovers that everything she's been told by the Barons is a lie, she escapes to Abzalaymon, a wondrous city filled with scientific marvels, hulking thunder lizards and hidden magic.

But the Barons are soon on Domino's trail. Because a war is brewing between science and magic. A war that could destroy the world. And Domino might just be the key to saving everyone . . .

'Thrilling' Guardian

'Sensational storytelling' - AF Steadman, author of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief.

The gripping new magical adventure from Branford Boase winner Struan Murray.

Domino has lived her whole life believing...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780241535585
PRICE £7.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 22 members

Featured Reviews

It really doesn’t seem possible that a little under four years ago, Struan Murray’s debut title Orphans of the Tide hit the shelves. An astonishing read that went on to win the Branford Boase Award, its fantastical storyline and sublime characterisation and world building, which were repeated in the two further titles that completed the trilogy, firmly cemented the author’s reputation as an incredible writer of middle grade fiction.

When I discovered last year that there was to be a new, standalone title from him, I immediately added it to my must-read list and when it appeared on Net Galley shortly before Christmas, I requested it straight away, bumping it straight to the top of my reading pile when the New Year brought my much longed-for approval. A completely different story, it again has that amazing rich description that brings its characters and their world vividly to life and – as you would expect if you have read his other work – is packed with breathtaking twists and turns as the narrative plays out.

Floating high above the city of Abzalaymon, the roof of the enormous marble building of the Scientarium is the scene of just the latest unpleasantness between two of its inhabitants – Domino and Claudette – whose deep loathing of one another is hugely entertaining to the other children watching on. Dragged inside to face the music by Science Baron Garballous, orphan Domino is once again reminded of her place within the Scientarium and just how grateful she should be that they have taken her in not just to provide her with a home but to keep her safe.

Reminding her that she can never leave until a cure is discovered for her allergy to the city’s magic, Garballous tells Domino that she is to start work as assistant to a Science Baron who is returning from years spent abroad conducting research – a position she has earned in part by being so unpopular that she will have no friends with whom to share any news or gossip. Warning her that she is to be on her best behaviour, Garballous lets her go to attend her lessons – something that she finds horribly dull. When her teacher leaves the room for a moment to deal with something, the other children set on her and only stop their attack on her when a stranger enters the room: the newly returned Science Baron.

Before long, the new arrival creates mayhem within the Scientarium and seizing her chance to at last visit Abzalaymon, Domino flees from its stuffy laboratories and classrooms and heads to the surface below, with the Science Barons in hot pursuit. Suddenly finding herself in a city full of magic and wizards, Domino must question everything she has been taught to believe in her quest to find the truth about magic and herself. As she encounters automobiles, thunder lizards and spirits for the first time in her short life, it is clear that the Science Barons are up to something – something that involves her and something that she will need to put a stop to, to save not just herself but everything around her. Can Domino find out the secret of the mysterious Moonshard in time to prevent catastrophe and defeat her enemies before they catch up with her?

To say that Domino is a flawed character is a huge understatement. Lying comes as naturally to her as breathing and she has no hesitation in putting the most enormous effort into her elaborate schemes to seek revenge against nemesis Claudette at the start of the book. It is, however, impossible not to like her – she is quick-witted, brave and, as she gradually lets down her defences to allow in those with whom she slowly makes friends, fiercely loyal and I adored her for it.

Both the Scientarium and Abzalaymon are immaculately described, with every word that the author chooses to use done so to perfection. As we are drawn into Domino’s world, we experience it alongside her, with each discovery that she made causing my heart to race as I read on and involving me so deeply that even when I was not reading the book, it occupied an enormous number of my thoughts as I yearned to pick it back up to watch the plot unfold. With plenty of equally well-drawn secondary characters, all of whom have vital parts to play in the narrative, this is surely going to be on many readers’ best of 2024 lists, as it will be on mine.

A wonderful title for confident readers in Year 5 upwards, this will also make a brilliant read aloud, if used in class, and features some gorgeous illustrations by Vivienne To – an artist new to me, whose work I shall be keeping an eye out for in future. I absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it highly enough to those who enjoy science fiction, fantasy and stunning adventures.

As always, my enormous thanks go to Puffin books and to Net Galley for my advance, virtual read. The Secret of the Moonshard publishes 7th March and is most definitely a title to preorder.

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