A Dark Lord trapped in the body of a teenage boy; vampires; zombie mothers and fathers who snack on children; a mad Roman emperor guarded by invincible soldiers from the future …

a weak, skinny boy who makes a deal with Death whilst on a quest to become an executioner like his father; a group of teens who discover a rock that could change the world as we know it, forever; spies who use nano-technology in a bid to control the world’s most powerful people…

Fabulous books for boys – and girls.

You might already have heard of Darren Shan through his vampire series which begins with Cirque du Freak. The Thin Executioner tells the story of Jebel Rum who wants, more than anything, to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an executioner (a very prestigious job). However, he is far too weak and skinny. When he is humiliated in public by his father, he sets out on a journey that will change his life forever – if he survives. As in all the best quests, Jebel learns a lot about himself as well as the different people he meets.

A dark tale but ultimately very satisfying.

Gates of Rome, the fifth book in The Time Riders series by Alex Scarrow, takes us, as the title suggests, back to Ancient Rome. In the year 2070, mankind is on the verge of extinction. In a desperate move to rewrite the past and thus change the future, Project Exodus sees 300 Americans being sent back to AD54. Not only do they arrive in the wrong year, they also make the mistake of thinking that because Emperor Caligula is mad, he must be stupid. Liam, Maddy, Sal and Bob must once again go back in time to sort things out.

Writer Alex Scarrow has borrowed two characters – Cato and Macro –  from the Roman Legion series by his brother, Simon.

Dark Lord: The Teenage Years by Jamie Thomson

The Dark Lord finds himself cast out of his world into ours – and into the body of a teenage boy. Dark Lord, now known as Dirk Lloyd, is fostered and has to go to school, do homework and find some way of dealing with the school bully. Imagine his horror when he discovers that in his absence his Iron Tower of Despair has been painted bright pink! With the help of his newly-found friends, he must find a way back home – and soon.

Great fun!

Wolven: The Twilight Circus is the second book in the Wolven series by Di Toft. Nat’s parents have been watching him closely – especially during the full moon – since he was saved from death by a transfusion of his friend Woody’s Wolven blood. Nat hasn’t transformed – yet – but he also hasn’t told them about his new powers and the visions he has been having. A newly revived Vampire Queen, missing children, an eye in a snow globe, the return of Lucas Scale, an invitation to join Nightshift, and a quest to find Woody’s long-lost Wolven clan all add up to a fast-paced adventure.

The end of the novel sets us up nicely for the third book in the series – Dark Wolf Rising.

One of my S1 pupils said that one of the things he liked about the first novel was that Woody didn’t always get his transformation completely right. I can’t wait to find out what he thinks about what happens to Nat in the third book.

I have just sent away for Fear by Michael Grant – the latest in the Gone series. His novel BZRK is very different but no less compelling. Welcome to a world where nanotechnology makes James Bond (and all of his gadgets) obsolete. Much of the spying and fighting takes place “in the meat” – inside people’s bodies. Many of those who control the nanobots and biots (created from the controllers’ own DNA) are teenagers and losing their biots can lead to madness. There is no need to assassinate world leaders if you can control them from within.

Fascinating stuff – and a bit scary!

The Fear by Charlie Higson is the third book in the series that begins with The Enemy and The Dead. I know that the adult survivors of the disease that killed so many people throughout the world are technically not zombies but they are in various stages of decay, they are terrifying, and they do eat children.

You meet some new characters – Shadowman is particularly interesting – as well as catching up with familiar faces, but be warned: your favourite characters may not survive.

Itch by Simon Mayo.

Itchingham Lofte (Itch for short) loves science and has an unusual collection – elements from the periodic table. When he blows off his eyebrows in an experiment, Itch’s mother makes him move his collection out into the shed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he nearly kills his classmates and teacher with poisonous gas. The latest addition to his collection, however, is more dangerous than Itch and his sister, Chloe, and their cousin, Jack, could ever imagine.

This is the book to make you change your mind if you think science is boring.

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