When Alfie Bloom inherited a castle and a centuries-old magic, his dull and lonely life was changed forever. But Alfie's new life has come with dangers he never could have expected. When Ashford the butler is kidnapped in the middle of the night, the castle comes under threat from a terrifying enemy. Trapped inside with only his twin cousins and best friend Amy, it's up to Alfie to defend his inheritance and prevent a terrible fate from befalling the whole of England!
*** Reader beware - this review is likely to contain spoilers for the first Alfie Bllom book.
Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle was one of my favourite books of 2015, and its sequel, Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief has been right up there on my list of most anticipated books of 2016. I described Gabrielle's first Alfie Bloom book as having 'perfect pace and and flow' and the author as a 'damn fine storyteller'. No pressure then, as far as the sequel is concerned!
Said sequel got preordered for my Kindle months ago, but due to the craziness of work I completely missed its release, and it was only as I was about to start reading another book that I just purchased that I saw it sitting there quietly, desperate to be read. All thoughts of reading that other book disappeared, as I dived back into the magical world of exciting adventure that Gabrielle Kent has created.
Despite now being settled at Hexbridge Castle, Alfie and his friends have still not managed to explore the whole of this mysterious building, which still holds many secrets from them. As does Ashford, the enigmatic butler that came with the Castle when the Bloom's moved it. Readers of the first book will know that there is an air of mystery surrounding this character, and we were left wanting to know much more about him. In this second book, our wants in this particular area are met fully - Ashford's past and present actions are central to the plot of The Talisman Thief, and we see his character developed much more fully.
Last time it was dragons that Alfie found himself up against, and this time it is elves. And these are certainly not elves of the cute and friendly variety - they are far more akin to Tolkien's arrogant and warrior-like elves that we see in The Hobbit. They have been wronged and they want retribution, and their targets are set firmly on Ashford, Alfie and anyone else who gets in their way.
When I wrote my review of Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle I took some pride in that fact that I had spotted one particular plot twist that had not yet been resolved. Gabrielle Kent sent me a message (of which I will say no more, for fear of creating spoilers), but I have felt more than a little smug since. Well they say that pride comes before a fall, and I feel that I have fallen big time. The plot of The Talisman Thief has some MASSIVE twists that hit me right between the eyes and had my jaw dropping to the ground.
Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief is a superb sequel, and I am sure it will be making an appearance in my favourite books of 2016. I have been in something of a reading slump recently as far as children's books are concerned, and have found myself reading far more adult and non-fiction books that I would have in recent years. However, like a phoenix from the ashes, I have been lifted out of this by two books: this wonderful magical adventure story, and Jennifer Bell's wonderful debut, The Crooked Sixpence. Hopefully I can now stay in this mood and catch up on my ultra-wobbly middle grade TBR pile.