A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity Banks

Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I first heard from Odyssey Books late last year, however, the timing of accepting their review request for “The Monster Apprentice” wasn’t the best timing for me due to my health and my migraines. As I was setting to mind what I wanted to do for Wyrd And Wonder this year, I decided to reach out to the publisher to see if I could schedule guest author features and perhaps finally accept the chance to read and review “The Monster Apprentice”. This sparked my idea of hosting Felicity Banks during @SatBookChat as 1 of 3 guest Indie Fantasy Authors for #SatBookChat (the bookish chat I host on the weekends featuring strong female characters across genres) and having the chance to read and review her novel. I was thankful I could put together a mixture of guest features (guest posts and interviews) as well as two reviews for this Indie publisher in New Zealand.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Monster Apprentice” direct from the author Felicity Banks and the publisher Odyssey Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Prior to finishing my readings of “The Monster Apprentice”

– I hosted the lovely Ms Banks during our first #SatBookChat during #WyrdAndWonder:

I love having the chance to feature Indie Authors on Jorie Loves A Story and during #SatBookChat – as it helps me showcase authors, publishers and stories I personally love seeking out myself who are on the Indie side of book world. I’ve been showcasing the Indies since I first started book blogging as at my heart as a reader is an Indie sensibility as I grew up having such a wonderful Indie bookstore in my city. Not to mention as a book blogger my knowledge of Indie publishers, press and authors is now on a world-wide scale of discovery.

Ever since Year One of #WyrdAndWonder, I’ve wanted to select Indie Authors and/or publishers to highlight, read and showcase as I want to help encourage other readers of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy to take a chance on an Indie novel and/or series. This is also the same mindset behind why I love hosting Indie Authors during #SatBookChat – whose roots were in hosting strictly Romance & Women’s Fiction novelists – however, in early 2020 I started to lay down the bones of change wherein we’re now featuring *all!* genres wherein you can find wicked strong female characters and/or stories which have a Feminist bent to them. We still focus on Romance & Women’s Fiction – however, I’m expanding it as my own readerly inclinations are more encompassing now that we’ve reached our six year of the chat!

What was so dearly delightful about Ms Banks is how she made the chat personable (sharing photos in the timeline of the chat) and how she answered questions directly about the world within the Rahana trilogy. To gain a bit of insight into how this world was constructed be sure to seek out the archive of our #SatBookChat.

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Ahead of discussing this lovely book on both #SatBookChat and on Jorie Loves A Story – I put together a short teaser of a #booktube #vlog #unboxing video which I shared on Twitter. I had a most delightful time answering one of the #WyrdAndWonder challenge prompts which was “The Best Things Come in Threes”.

I had planned to finish reading this novel and release my review last weekend – however, the hours escaped me and I wasn’t able to finish until now. I cannot wait to hear what my fellow #WyrdAndWonder readers will think once they find out about this intriguing world – wherein heroines step through ordinary lives into extraordinary circumstances!

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity BanksThe Monster Apprentice
by Felicity Banks
Source: Direct from Publisher

The only weapon Dance has is her name.

When pirates threaten the tiny hidden island of Luar, Dance knows her home has only one hope of survival: the magical monsters that killed her twin sister.

Dance loses her friends one by one as she attempts to prepare her strange apprentices for the showdown between monsters and pirates. Can she do it alone?

The Monster Apprentice is a powerful story of looking at the world differently and finding an answer in an unexpected place.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781925652130

Genres: Children's Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy, Mythological Fantasy, Pirate Fiction


Published by Odyssey Books

on 1st May, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 139

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Published by: Odyssey Books (@OdysseyBooks)

Felicity Banks invented the fantasy world of Rahana while living in Indonesia. She grew up reading stories set in Narnia and Middle Earth, and she wanted to invent a fantasy world that was just as beautiful but didn’t feel British, or white, or male.

In Rahana the weather is tropical and the people are visually similar to Indonesians. Magic is common, and makes physical strength irrelevant. There are millions of islands both small and large, and sailing technology is more advanced that the other sciences. Rahana is a thriving tropical world where people are born with a love of the high seas.

Naturally, the world is full of pirates.

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #TheMonsterApprentice, #MGLit, #MGFantasy
as well as #pirates and #MiddleGrade; #IndieAuthor, #IndieFantasy

About Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” (visit site) and most of her interactive fiction can be read via an app.

She writes about all her various pirates tales (some appropriate for children, some definitely not) on her Facebook page as well as sharing stories and images that appeal to the not-so-secret pirate within all of us.

She met her husband at a pirate ball, and has two little pirates at home.

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my review of the monster apprentice:

I immediately took an interest in Dance – she was a brave young girl who understood the history of her island but also the growing tension of why her father worried about her safety and the safety of their community here. Even in the opening paragraphs there is a bit of urgency in the tone of how Banks started her story – where Dance can sense the heightened fear in the caller’s voice – the person intending to speak with her father and the voice which was drawing her to catch her breath.

I loved how art was introduced straight-away – a small bit of insight into the heart of her people – of how on this island (Luar) art was as sacred as the trees. And, trees apparently were quite revered because you can sense this yourself as Dance speaks about the art which comes from the raw materials of the trees. Trees for me have held such a high impression on my person since I first started staring after trees along highways and byways; whilst pausing whenever I was close to them in person and happily feeling museful about their lives. Especially the cycle of how other species laid claim to their boughs and branches; how connected they were to our source of life (ie. oxygen) and how throughout the ages of time, trees are resolute, proud and awe-inspiring just to be nearby. I could then imagine – any bit of art carved from a tree has a life spirit of its own etched out of the raw wood and drawing a new energy from the carver’s tools, hands and vision for what the art being created would represent.

Dance lives on an island tucked away from the world – what makes this one dearly unique in my eyes as I haven’t come across a lot of snowbound or ice encased worlds, is the fact this particular island would be right at home in the Arctic Circle! It is beyond cold here – where the frozen ice hides their greatest enemy (ie. Heest monsters) and where if you were brave enough, you wouldn’t consider what their presence unde the ice was foretelling about your own fate and the fate of your community. Banks goes into a bit of detail about how this island was fashioned together – from materials they could repurpose and from purchases they had made long ago giving them a bit of bolster of privacy from prying eyes on the outside. It was their sincere hope to remain hidden which inspired how they lived and how they choose to thrive in one of the coldest locations I’ve had a chance to visit.

I positively LOVE finding illustrative art inside novels – The Monster Apprentice is delightfully inclusive of renderings of the scenes you’re reading about as you walk beside Dance! The very first illustration was featuring the ‘sky cows’ – having spent time on a ranch with breeding stock, I know how stubborn cows can be and how particular they are once they’ve settled on a place they want to roost. Cows are gentle giants and have kind hearts but there are moments where like most animals, they simply want to be left alone and left to their own devices. The imagery provided in this illustration and the depictions of the cows and Dance’s interaction with them in the text was quite a heap of hilarity! It was interesting to see how Dance chooses to interact with her world and how she constantly likes to bend the rules in order to do what she is tasked to accomplish!

The fortitude it takes to live on this ice island is quite fierce because rather than give yourself to the fear of what could come – Dance and Ellie, and the rest of their people have to think smarter to outwit their enemies here. This comes into play soon after Dance arrived at Ellie’s house (after the incident with the cows!) when the two must join together as a team with Watchman in order to do the best for their people and to hopefully approach the pirates with ingenuity rather than impulsive action. It was interesting seeing how Dance’s father was working off his emotions but Dance turnt inward to contemplate what was happening first – to review what she knew and what she had overheard before acting off what she presumed was truth. Her Dad needed her counsel to remember the advice she was giving him because for too long I felt her father was still coming to terms with what had happened to her sister.

The illustration of the pirate’s ship was beyond impressive – the way tall ships have this eerie presence over the water makes their arrival even more ominous. The illustration we first see on the inside of the novel differs from the one on the cover – in particular, there isn’t a black sail predominately featured at the bow. It looks just as you’ve felt Dance describing the mood – a ship moving closer to their island, expecting to land and drawing fear with each bit of sea it glides through towards the shore.

Dance conceives of a rather out of the box solution to their current problem with the pirates – she doesn’t want to sit and wait for the invasion to happen nor does she want to ruminate on the past where their sense of security had been removed the day they had turnt their backs on having weapons at hand. Instead, she wanted to focus on their assets – all their assets even if some of those were afeared in her community. Again, you gathered a sense of urgency in Dance – to not just prove she was worthy of her inherited responsibility but of her own self-worth. She wanted to be someone who did something rather than to join with her neighbours who simply wanted to hide from the situation altogether.

Ice climbing isn’t the sport I gravitated towards but it is a sport which requires a huge amount of respect for those who undertake it. As Dance took to the ice to descend rather than climb, I definitely was silently urging her onward – hoping the ice would hold and that whichever place she found herself inside would be a place where she could answer most of the questions she dared not speak aloud. The details here captured the difficulty of how ice is as hard to manipulate under your hands and feet as sheer rock – climbing isn’t a sport for everyone because you have to bottle your innate fears of falling and focus on where you put your hands and your feet.

Our first introduction to the Heest monsters is an interesting one – Dance has to break several security rules and protocols to enter into their domain. Even then, she’s out of her depth in regards to knowing how to communicate with the Heest. Yet, she has gifts which suit her well on her first diplomacy meeting with the Heest – in fact, when you observe how she used instinct to curb fear and how art fused a commonality of interest between her and the Heest – it proved that sometimes what you fear the most isn’t meant to be feared at all. The Heest live in and around the ice itself – thus, it made sense in order to ‘enter their part of the world’ Dance would have to descend to where they could be found. I, for one, wasn’t expecting how they were described until I realised that most fish who live in deep water take-on certain translucent attributes and have a different way of being ‘seen’ than the fish who live closer to the surface. Mind, the Heest aren’t exactly fish but they’re not entirely not fish either! They seem to be their own category of species which works off a theory of a fish variant.

There is a moment where Dance emerges from being with the Heest where she is interacting with Ransom. This brief encounter was a sombering one as Ransom isn’t very popular amongst the children and even in regards to Dance, she tends to just brush him off rather than interact with him directly. The moment left an impression on me because no one should feel the way she made Ransom feel when she was caught being somewhere she wasn’t meant to be. If anything, even the small kindness of returning a reply to when we spoke to her directly would have felt kinder than just walking past him to speak to Ellie. However, its very true to life – how certain people are prejudiced against and how some children are overlooked or dismissed by other children.

One interesting thread of interest in this story is how emotions play a very strong role in shaping events in the story. Anger in particular is highlighted and this was an interesting thread because Dance’s Mum is a feelsmith (ie. empath) wherein she can root out a person’s emotional state just by touch. I liked how there was this give and take between Dance and her parents; she’s trying to assert her independence from them but at the same time, she knows she still could use their advice. Yet, she’s reached that age where seeking that advice and even talking to them openly about what is important to her in the here and now isn’t a path she’s ready to walk. I could tell her Mum knew more than she was letting her daughter know about – part of me wondered if that was in fact a test, to see if Dance was prepared for the future?

You can’t quite have a novel about pirates without swords and I loved how Banks gave an interlude of swordplay to Dance and Ellie. Especially as it proved how far both girls were willing to defend their community and also break the established rules in order to do it. Banks also built on the fact Dance had inside knowledge of how to use her feet in swords due to her years of dancing – she had naturally honed a hidden talent without realising it and I was cheering her on!

My heart grieved for Weaponry though – as I saw the girls’ with the swords, I knew the woman who had been in charge of keeping weapons on the island would have felt hurt knowing she wasn’t trusted enough to be told not all the weapons were removed. She had lost her purpose the day this community turnt their backs on having a way to defend themselves against enemies and that in of itself was sombering. Each of these people were named for their talents and to have a name you can no longer honour had to be the hardest fate to resolve.

At the heart of this story is the coming-of age transition Dance is undergoing as she starts to emerge from childhood into adulthood. She has to sort through what her mind and her heart are telling her are the truths of the situations she is experiencing whilst she has to find the balance between the duties of her people and the will survive against the odds she has to overcome. Similar to Weaponry not believing she had any self-worth anymore since the weapons were removed, Dance also has a struggle within herself to accept her own talents and her own wisdom.

Banks does a wonderful job of keeping this first installment beautifully connected on her characters and on the priming of our introduction to their ice and sea world. Things are not quite as you expect them to be here – there are hints of magic, of intrigue and of binding bargains which may in the end be worse than their initial acceptance. Each person here – young or old alike has to find their own individual truth and path; similar to life, everyone is working through their own headspace and has to find the courage to be a bit braver than they feel.

One of my favourite features of this novel are the Heest – mostly because Banks keeps us in the dark for most of the novel about their truer nature and how they operate as a species. There is far more to the Heest than what is presumed and that is the true beauty of their kind for me. I’d love t see how this trilogy continues to develop – especially if we can entreat more into the magical perimeters of the world and the concepts of how those magical extras operate within a place that is a rather harsh physical environment of both ice and sea.

on the fantastical writing styling of felicity banks:

Similar to how I felt deposited into one of my most addictively watched film series Pirates of the Caribbean – you are immediately taken to the height of the fear involving the pirates of this world. As soon as the signal was raised there was an immediate invasion of pirates coming – the whole community took up haste to prepare and become ready to fight for their lives. What was interesting was how Banks showed the action of this preparedness through the eyes of Dance and Ellie (whose name was shortened from Eldership) – two young girls who now had more responsibility than they might have ever wanted to shoulder.

This is the moment where Dance steps into a level of responsibility she felt had once belonged to her sister – Armoury. There is a sadness which lingers over the passages with Dance as the story starts to unfold – you can tell she misses her sister (they were twins) but it is something more than just sisterly love and loss. I felt she almost missed a part of herself and a part she couldn’t quite place again.

I appreciated the realism in the background – such as how Banks describes Dance’s ability to understand her body’s limitations and its strengths; built on years of dancing and having to push herself past the edge of what she used to feel were her limits. These kinds of touches of characterisation really help ground this story for me in the coming-of age concept of how Dance is starting not to just mature and come into her own as we walk alongside her but she’s finding out what she can handle independent of her father.

Part of the reasons I loved reading this story is because of how water-centred it is and how the sea plays such a strong role within the timeline. This is a world built on what it can survive and thrive off of from the sea traders and the limitations of what can be forged on the island itself. You cannot be afraid of water or ice; as you’re completely consumed by both here and yet, there is a quietness about the world, too. There are passages of thoughtfulness where the natural world is shown to be in close kinship to Dance and her people whilst the sea and the ice are respected for how dangerous they can become for humans who live here.

The life lessons Banks etched into the background of this story I believe would inspire younger readers to recognise that even at their young ages, there are still moments where they can have influence and a say about what happens in their lives. The key lesson is that everyone can choose how they react and how they act in times of uncertainty. I appreciated how she anchoured the life lessons into the fabric of how she first introduced us into this trilogy whilst it was how she phrased the narrative in descriptive revelations which was a treat to read.

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#EnterTheFantastic: Seeking out the fantastical elements –

→ Heest monsters

→ Fantastical illustrations

→ Quickensmiths

The monsters themselves were actually a variant of fish – the way Banks described them they were definitely in their own ‘category’ of species but it was how they liked to mimic what others do in front of them which left me quite curious about their nature. I truly came to love the Heest which speaks volumes about how Banks endeared me to them. I don’t want to spoilt anything about the Heest but they are seriously my favourite ‘monster’ of Fantasy!

I find one of the best inclusions in Children’s Literature are the illustrations – they help you anchour closer to the story because they are visually giving you hints towards what is happening in sequence of the storyline. The interesting bit about these illustrations is that they look like pencil illustrations rather than pen and ink; I found that quite fascinating. The details you can get out of a pencil drawing is quite precise as much as pen and ink; I enjoy seeing the different dimensions of realism in different mediums of art – illustrations in particular is a personal side interest of mine. I would love to re-develop my drawing skills from when I was younger to shift forward into either illustrations for my own writings and/or go in a different direction an explore Speculative Fiction art because that is where my art interests lie now.

As this first novel is setting up the foundation of the trilogy – we were treated only to a hinting of the magic in this world. The curators of the magic are known as quickensmiths and this was broached at the time when Dance had to face the pirates because of how the ship itself was moving through the water. I found it interesting how the dynamics of the world and of the magic within it were not completely disclosed because this was a very character-centred introduction. You get a few hints towards what is coming in future installments but not overly enough to lose your curiosity because this novel does lend itself to being curious about what will become disclosed!

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I, personally love curating a soundscape for the stories I am listening to via #Spotify – it allows me the breadth of choice when it comes to genres of music whilst it is easier to ‘match’ a story with a particular cadence of sound. For my readings of “The Monster Apprentice” I staid within the wheelhouse of Nordic Folk, Ambient and/or Nordic & Viking Indie Music selections. Previously found and inspired by my readings of “Cycles of Norse Mythology” – another #WyrdAndWonder selection for Year 3.

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This book review is courtesy of: Odyssey Books

Be sure to visit the #SatBookChat WyrdAndWonder Info Page
as well as the #SatBookChat Felicity Banks page to access the chat’s archive.

The Monster's Apprentice @SatBookChat badge created by Jorie in Canva. Photography Credit: © jorielovesastory.com.

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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This book review is part of my showcases during #WyrdAndWonder: Year 3:

#WyrdAndWonder 2020 event banner created by Jorie in Canva.

This is part of my showcases for a Fantasy event I am co-hosting during our 3rd Year of #WyrdAndWonder – follow us socially via @WyrdAndWonder – stalk our tag (across social media) and/or join us in a month long celebration of how the fantastical realms of Fantasy give you wicked JOY.

Ideas of how you can participate – an initial welcome post by my co-host Imyril as well as the first Quest Log (map into the book blogosphere for #WyrdAndWonder) and the first Roll Call Log by my co-host Lisa!

Read our Creative Roulette #WyrdAndWonder Interview!

Be sure to visit my Announcement & TBR List!

Read through all my reviews & posts showcased during #WyrdAndWonder!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Monster Apprentice”, synopsis, story overview synopsis as well as the biography and photo of the author Felicity Banks were all provided by the author Felicity Banks and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge, #WyrdAndWonder Year 3 banner, #SatBookChat Felicity Banks badge and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

Comments via Twitter:

I received a very special book blogger honour in having this review featured through #TheWriteReads community which is a pro-positive book blogger community where we each try to lift & celebrate the book reviews & other posts we’re regularly sharing throughout the year. The bloke behind ‘The Write Reads’ keeps us united and has curated a beautiful community. Dave hand selects the posts which will be featured and it is always a lovely surprise! This is the first time I’ve been featured in the community feeds and it was quite a humbling experience!

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WyrdAndWonder

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov in #Unboxing BookMail, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Review (non-blog tour), Childhood Friendship, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death of a Sibling, Fantasy Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Life Shift, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Twin Siblings




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