Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My Top 10 Classical Pieces

|   BOOKISH RAMBLES   |
My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday


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Music has always been a big part of my life; everything including rock, folk, Celtic, film soundtracks and classical. I've been around a lot of genres since I was a kid, and I still listen to them now.

In regards to the classical side, I got around to thinking about that since the BBC Proms have just finished (I always watch the Last Night!). I recently rediscovered a film which I used to have playing in the background a lot when I was younger, packed full of classical music and nature footage. It's really set me on a mission to spend time listening to my favourite composers again. A lot of them are ones I can't even remember hearing for the first time - they appeared sometime in my childhood and I've loved them ever since.

So here are a few of my favourite pieces! Feel free to check them out!

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WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART - Requiem

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Fur Elise

SERGEI PROKOFEIV - Troika, from Lieutenant Kije Suite

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY - Theme from Swan Lake

JOHANN PACHELBEL - Canon

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL - Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, from Solomon

ALEXANDER BORODIN - String Quartet No. II

ANTONIO VIVALDI - Spring Allegro, from The Four Seasons

JOHANN STRAUSS II - The Blue Danube

GUSTAV HOLST - The Planets Suite


Elphame Arts - My Art Journey

With the launch of Elphame Arts just around the corner, I thought I'd deviate from books a bit and tell you a little about my artwork. It's been a while coming for me to get to this point where I'm ready to open my own art business, and it's amazing to think that it's coming to life - especially since, until 6 months ago, I couldn't even grip a pencil properly!

Like most kids, I enjoyed drawing when I was younger. I've been drawing for pretty much as long as I've been writing; I illustrated my stories right up until I was 16 (the last one was actually the very first draft of Blindsighted Wanderer!). I played around with a lot of mediums in my early teens, and it wasn't long before I found my love of pencils - especially graphite. It was around this time that I really wondered if I could ever be an artist.

Picturewww.fairiesandfantasy.com
When I was 13, I discovered Selina Fenech. Even today, she's still my favourite artist, and her work has inspired me for ten years. I was particularly taken with her pencil artworks, and I studied her techniques, trying to apply them to my own drawings. I even used her as my style inspiration for my final art piece in school. I did enjoy art classes very much, but I resented them in a way as well, because most of the time, we had to use some kind of paint, and I can't use a brush to save my life. I always grasped any opportunity to use my beloved graphite and charcoal. But those opportunities were few and far between, so by the time I finished my GCSEs, I'd actually lost my drive to draw.

I finally picked up my pencils again three years later, just before I started university. I got a profile on DeviantART and I was overjoyed to be drawing again. After a while, I started experimenting with digital photomanipulations as well (using nothing but Microsoft Paint - I have no idea how I even managed that!). This was when I received my first commissions, and when I donated several pieces to raise money for charities.

But when I was 19, in my second year of uni, I started having problems with my right wrist. It was gradual at first, but then got worse and worse, until the point when I couldn't even lift a fork. To have all my strength sap away so rapidly was a real knock to my confidence, and I was forced to stop drawing again, because I simply couldn't hold a pencil.

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The trouble with my wrist lasted for a long time, coming and going, and I've lost count of how many times I had to strap it up to ease the pain. I finally managed to get it seen to, and after a load of X-rays and an MRI scan, we found the problem with my tendons. I took a physiotherapy course for several months, and my strength gradually returned. To make up for my inability to draw, I'd turned back to digital art, and come on in leaps and bounds (especially when I invested in a Photoshop programme!). I self-taught myself, eventually creating my own concept artworks for my novels and, in the case of Tragic Silence, the book cover.

Just a couple of months ago, I dug out my old portfolio from my late teens and decided to test my wrist properly. I did a simple portrait, and I was amazed when I managed to complete it. Spurred on, I made more and more, and with each one, the pain and shaking in my hand decreased. I know that if I'd drawn this much at the start of 2014, it probably would have made my wrist worse. But now, it's adding to the strength, and it almost feels back to normal. And it helped me to finally make the decision to follow my old idea of being an artist.

PictureMy latest artwork: 'Black September'
Elphame Arts will open on Friday 3rd October 2014, and I'm so excited to let this become real at last. Not too long ago, I did seriously wonder whether I'd ever be able to draw properly again - or return to the standard I'd previously worked at. But with perseverance and a lot of hard work, this new venture is about to begin, and I can't wait to share it with all of you!

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my art journey - now it's time for the future to come rolling around!



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Happily Ever After? The Truth About Fairytales

|   BOOKISH RAMBLES   |
My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday


As you may know, I absolutely adore fantasy, especially folk stories and fairy tales. But it's no real newsflash that a lot of the most popular fairy tales have been 'brightened up' in modern times. For as magical and enchanting as they may be, even they have their fair share of dark moments!

The golden age of Disney films is a good example - some of the imagery used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs looks like it came straight from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari; one of the first horror movies ever made!
But even these stories descend from some pretty grisly and sometimes shocking origins, the depth of which doesn't come to mind straightaway. It's easy to forget that fairy tales were not originally intended for children. It was only later that they became mystical fables which helped to teach boys and girls life lessons.

So here are some of my favourite fairy tales in their original forms. Some of them do have a happy ending, but they are all definitely more gruesome than how they've often been portrayed in popular culture. Some are ones you may not have heard of, but I take no responsibility for any ruining of childhoods here! Read on at your own risk!


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The Little Mermaid

The sea witch claims the mermaid's voice by cutting out her tongue, and gives her an indefinite period to win the love of the prince and an immortal soul by marrying him. Every step feels like walking on knives, but she still dances with ethereal beauty, causing everyone to take notice. But the prince believes another woman saved him from the shipwreck and decides to marry her instead. The mermaid is approached by her sisters, who have cut off their hair and given it to the witch in exchange for a dagger. They offer it to the mermaid, saying that if she stabs the prince through the heart and lets his blood wash over her feet, she'll regain her tail and be able to return to her family. But the mermaid loves the prince too much to kill him, so she leaps overboard and transforms into sea foam.



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The Wild Swans

When eleven princes are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother, their sister Eliza determines to lift the curse. The only way she can is by picking nettles from a graveyard with her bare hands, trampling them into flax with her bare feet, and then weaving eleven shirts from them to dress her brothers in. But throughout the whole process, she cannot speak a single word, no matter how much pain she is in, otherwise all her brothers will die. She carries on weaving even though she is eventually accused of witchcraft for her work, and narrowly escapes being burned at the stake.


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Snow White

The huntsman sends seven year-old Snow White into the forest, even though he knows she will likely be killed by wild beasts. He then slays a pig, taking its lungs and liver as proof of the kill, which the queen later eats in the belief that they are her stepdaughter's. When the queen discovers Snow White is still alive, she tries to kill her not once, but three times: by lacing her bodice too tight, running a poisoned comb through her hair, and then giving her a poisoned apple. When the prince finds Snow White, he convinces the dwarves to let him take her away because he has fallen in love with her dead body. On the way to the castle, however, his men accidentally drop the glass coffin, causing Snow White to wake up when the piece of apple dislodges from her throat. The queen is later invited to the wedding, only to be punished for her attempted murders by being forced to dance in a pair of white-hot iron shoes until she drops dead.



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Rapunzel

Rapunzel is taken by a sorceress at birth as payment for her parents' theft of a lettuce. She later meets a prince who climbs the tower to visit her, and brings skeins of silk so she can make a ladder to escape with him. One day Rapunzel mentions to the sorceress that her dress has grown tight around her belly, causing the sorceress to realise she has been seeing a man. Furious, she cuts off Rapunzel's hair and exiles her to a distant land. When the prince comes to the tower, the sorceress says he will never see his beloved again. The prince leaps from the window in despair and is blinded by thorns. He wanders alone for years and eventually comes to the land where Rapunzel has been living with the twin children she had given birth to. She recognises him and cries tears into his eyes, which heals him.


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The Red Shoes

Karen is a girl who becomes fascinated with a pair of red shoes. When she leaves her elderly guardian to die in favour of dancing at a ball, she is unable to stop. She is forced to dance constantly through fields and graveyards, until her feet are bleeding, with no way to get the shoes off. She is soon confronted by an angel who tells her she is forsaken by all her loved ones, and condemned to dance forever until she is little more than a skeleton, to warn children against vanity. Desolate, she eventually manages to find a headsman and persuades him to cut off her feet. He made her some wooden legs and crutches so she could finally go home and repent, but the shoes carried on dancing by themselves with her feet still in them.


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Sleeping Beauty

The princess is cursed to prick her finger on a flax spinning wheel and die after a wicked fairy is not invited to her christening party. Another fairy at the party who had not yet granted the princess a gift, alters the spell so that the spindle will not cause death, instead a century-long sleep. But there is one version of the story which says the teenage princess wasn't left completely undisturbed. Instead, she is found by a passing king who has his way with her, causing her to grow pregnant and give birth to twins while she is still asleep. It is the action of one of the babies that woke her, searching for a breast and instead suckling on her finger, loosening the shard of flax that had stuck there.



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Cinderella

In the original version, the stepmother is even more determined to make sure one of her own daughters marries the prince. However, the slipper Cinderella had left at the ball was fitted especially to her foot. So the stepmother, saying there would be no need to walk again once married to the prince, tells the first stepsister to cut off her toe so the slipper will fit. The prince notices the blood and brings her back, so the second stepsister is then ordered to cut off her heel. Again, the prince sees the blood in the shoe and returned to the house. Cinderella was then able to try the slipper. The stepsisters later went to the wedding, but two pigeons attacked them and pecked out their eyes.



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And finally, a little word about Blindsighted Wanderer...
Even though it's not a fairy tale written by Andersen or collected by the Brothers Grimm, the Asrai water nymphs do feature in a folk tale that inspired my first published novel. You can see the similarities most clearly in the prologue, but even that differs slightly.

In the original legend, the Asrai doesn't escape the fisherman - he rows to the edge of the lake with her bound in a net and hidden underneath a clump of reeds. By the time he gets there, however, the sun has risen and melted her into a pool of water.


Saturday, 14 June 2014

My blog is now on my website

Hi - my blog has now moved across to my website and no more posts will be uploaded here.

Please head over to
for all my posts.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Announcement: this blog is moving!

Hi everyone - this is just a little notice to let you all know that this blog will very shortly be closing. This will be my last post here, because I'm going to be moving all my blogging activities over to my website.

ON SUNDAY 15TH JUNE, ALL POSTS WILL BE LIVE FROM WWW.ECHIBBS.WEEBLY.COM



I made a short video on it, which you can see here:



I think the move will make it a lot easier for both you and me to navigate, because then everything can act around a central hub on the website. I'm going to be moving some of the posts from this blog across to the new one, but for the most part, there will be new stuff on there, and I promise to post more often once everything is up and running.



This is something I've been thinking about for a few weeks, and I eventually decided to go ahead with it because I've started to have some technical difficulties here. I want to be able to present my posts the way I want, and that's not possible for me to do anymore on this blog. It hasn't been an easy decision because I do love this blog - I've been using it for two years now and it's seen the publication of both my books. But now I think it's time to move on, and I really hope you'll join me on the new blog!

The new page on my website will be going live this weekend, and I'll put a notice on this blog to redirect there. To everyone who has followed me here for the past two years, I really want to thank you all SO MUCH for all your amazing support! See you soon, thank you, and cyber hugs to you!!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Royal Holloway update & upcoming party!

Hi guys, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news.

THE BAD NEWS:
In my last post, I mentioned how I was due to visit Royal Holloway University on Tuesday 22nd May. Well, unfortunately due to circumstances out of everyone's control, that event has now been postponed until the start of the new academic term in September. I'm really disappointed that the plans couldn't go ahead, but they are definitely not cancelled, and I'm going to let you know the new date as soon as everything is sorted out.

THE GOOD NEWS:
The Tragic Silence blog tour is over now, and it's been an amazing two weeks so I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who was involved! It also means that the EC Hibbs Facebook page is less than 55 likes away from hitting 1000! The very idea of that many people following me is absolutely mindblowing, and I really want to give everyone a little something back for all your incredible support. So when the page does reach 1000 likes, I'm going to throw a little online party on Facebook! If you want to join in with that, please head on over to the page and help me get to the mark!

Once again, I want to thank each and every one of your for your support and kind words - you are all amazing!!!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Royal Holloway University visit!!!


Okay, I’ve wanted to share this news for over a month now but I’ve kept it hush-hush until everything was finalised. But now I can finally spill the beans, yay!!!

Shortly before I started VEDA, I was very kindly invited to pay a visit to Royal Holloway, University of London! So on Tuesday 22nd May, I’ll be making the trip down to the south-east of England to meet up with the university’s book society, for an evening of book talk and authory chatter!

I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am for this! I’ve been bursting to tell everyone ever since March, and I honestly don’t know how I managed not to blab a word all the way through April – believe me, it was especially tempting since I had the camera pointed in my direction every day! I’m going to be sharing pics and stuff closer to the time on Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow along if you’d like! Aaaah, I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!

 

Friday, 9 May 2014

A single smile

I actually wrote this post last week and wanted to get it up sometime before the blog tour began, but I’ve been having some problems lately with Blogger and it’s set me behind on posting. But it’s here now, so here we go!

I’m similar to most writers in that all this started out as a hobby; something I did in my spare time around my homework. I did it because I loved it, and because I knew it helped to keep me sane. I never decided from day one that I wanted to be published. I actually became very secretive about my writing, so the idea of being published seemed a thousand miles away. But when I did start seriously pursuing the idea: sending out the submissions and enquiry letters, I was aware from the beginning that it wouldn’t be easy. And I knew it was something that, at the very heart of it all, you have to do for the love of it.

To that end, I openly said that if I ever was lucky enough to be published, I had one main priority. If just one person read my stories and enjoyed them, then I’d done a good job. To think something I had created could bring pleasure and happiness to a single reader, I would be content.

This summer will be two years since my dreams of becoming a published author came true. Since then, both Blindsighted Wanderer and Tragic Silence have been released. I’ve heard from readers about them, and it always brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye when I hear that they have been enjoyed. Of course there are going to be some more negative comments – everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if my books don’t turn out to be their cup of tea, then fair enough. But I still stand by the idea of the smile being all I ever wanted. And to think that one smile has become quite a few smiles now just makes me melt.

I’m honoured to be able to share all this with you, and to make sure I never forget that motto, I have it stuck on my wall so I can see it every day.

a single smile
is worth my while

Sunday, 27 April 2014

New website and series completed!

Hi guys! First of all, I want to apologise for disappearing off the face of the blog-o-verse the last few weeks - things have got a bit crazy on my end and I've had a lot to sort through. But quite a bit has happened lately so here I am with a slightly late update!

First of all... I HAVE A NEW WEBSITE!!! So if you were wondering where the 'Bonus Material' page has vanished to off this blog, it is now over on my new site, and there's a load more new stuff for you! In addition to the book trailers and their playlists, the Bonus section now includes:

- Desktop wallpapers for your computer (four from each book)
- Character profiles
- A selection of my notes for both the books
- A bunch of teaser pictures showing excerpts from the books

And I'm pretty sure more stuff will be added in due course! I really like the new site and I hope you will too - it's really easy to navigate and saves the trouble of clogging my blog up too much. I was honestly starting to have some problems with sharing some of the stuff with you here, and I just think this solution makes it all a lot easier. So head on over there and check it out!


Secondly... Sepia and Silver is finished! That means that the entire Tragic Silence series is now complete!!! I got so emotional when I typed the last word; I always do when I finish any story, but especially when it's the end of a series. The Tragic Silence story has been a pretty different thing for me to write; partially because of its setting being completely in 'this world' as opposed to a fantasy realm, but also because of the changing narratives. Each book has featured a different narrator, different time period, different settings, and different plot - and to top it all off, I worked in reverse, so what is chronologically the first story was the last to be written. Phew!

I'm glad it's over, still a little sad, but more than anything I'm just proud to finally see it complete. It's taken five years to write the three books, and they'd all been stewing for probably another ten before I even first put pen to paper. So HOORAY FOR THE TRAGIC SILENCE SERIES!!! I'm going to be taking the next few months off so I can concentrate on finishing my dissertation for university, but my next project is already on the cards for autumn/winter this year (depending on how quickly I get the dissertation written). It will be a fantasy/steampunk/adventure novel called Run Like Clockwork, and I'm aiming to have the first draft completed by the end of 2014!

So that pretty much sums up the main updates that I wanted to share with you - I really hope you'll enjoy the new website, and that you'll have a good week! Take care!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Autism Awareness and VEDA

Hi everyone - hope you're all doing well! I just wanted to give a quick update and share some general news with you. I've been super busy these last few weeks, doing a mountain of uni work, but I've got a bit of a break at the moment so I'm taking a couple of days to rest. And that means time for working on Sepia and Silver, hooray!


But anyway, I wanted to say that in a few days' time, my great friend Tammy Middleton (author of the Opposites Series under the name T.M. Smith) has been organising a special auction to benefit Autism Awareness next month. It will be going live in a few days for bids to start, but you can already have a look at a handful of the stuff that will be up for grabs by following this link:



Blindsighted Wanderer book thong, custom made by Crazy Creations.
Blindsighted Wanderer book thong
Basically, a lot of authors have come together and donated stuff for the prize, including signed paperbacks and prints. From my corner, there's a Blindsighted Wanderer book thong, custom-made by the brilliant Crazy Creations. But this is a cause that means a lot to me and is really close to my heart, so I'm also debuting a prize that I've been thinking of doing for a while, but wanted to save for something like this. The winning bidder will receive a one-of-a-kind personalised digital portrait of themselves or someone they nominate, as an Asrae nymph from Blindsighted Wanderer, created and signed by me.


It would be amazing if you would please consider joining us and helping to raise some money for this wonderful cause. I'll be posting more links as I get them, so stay tuned if you're interested - and thank you SO MUCH in advance!!!


On a final note, I wanted to say that this year I will be taking part in VEDA - Vlog Every Day in April - on Youtube. I've never done anything like it before, but I think it could turn out to be fun! So I will be putting up my first video on 1st April and more will follow throughout the month. This is going to be interesting...


See you all soon!

Monday, 3 March 2014

My top 5 literary characters

This was really tough for me to do - I find it hard enough to narrow down my favourite books, let alone my favourite characters! But I got around to thinking about characters which have really stuck with me through the years; that I think are absolutely brilliant and might have even influenced my own writing a bit. So after a lot of shuffling around, I've managed to get them down to my top 5, and here they are!


WOLF
The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

Anybody who knows me will know how much I adore this series. I never get tired of showering it with praise. They are great books for both kids and adults that I don’t think I will ever stop recommending. But the thing that, for me, turns it from a brilliant story into an incredible story is Wolf. He begins as an orphaned cub that becomes attached to Torak, the series’ protagonist, after both lose their families on the same night. Despite a rocky start, the two quickly come to see each other as pack-brothers, both always looking out for the other as they journey through the Forest. They grow and mature together, and as time goes on, their bond becomes even deeper, until each would gladly risk everything for their brother.

In my opinion, this is a perfect example of anthropomorphism done right. It’s guaranteed that if you have an animal character in any story, you will need to give some level of human characteristics to them so they can become relatable to the reader. So some animals act somewhat like humans; talk like humans – or even if they don’t actually talk, their POV language is still human-sounding. With Wolf, you get none of that. There is never any doubt that when you are looking through his eyes, he is a wolf. One of the series’ greatest achievements for me is simply his descriptions of the world as a simple adjective-ridden environment – pretty much how you would have to try to make sense of it if you didn’t have any kind of verbal words. His body language is used instead of speech, and it works. But there is also his character: a perfect balance of playfulness, protectiveness, and loyalty that anyone who has experience with dogs or wolves can instantly recognise as being true.

Michelle Paver has managed to achieve something amazing with him in the most simple – and arguably accurate – way that I’ve ever seen, and for that reason, Wolf will always be my top animal character.


JANE EYRE
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I’ve always been a big lover of classic literature, especially the ones that had a more gothic twist to them. But the epitome of my love for this kind of Victorian fiction is Jane Eyre, and that is basically all down to Jane herself. The book is, in essence, a coming-of-age story: we follow Jane as she grows from her abusive and loveless childhood into a young woman, who takes the post of governess in the house of the domineering and mysterious Mr Rochester. Going against many conventions, the two fall in love and determine to marry, but when the secrets of Rochester’s dark past are revealed, it jeopardises everything that Jane holds dear.

Even though this does have a very strong romantic element to it, the book really is in a class of its own. Like most of the 19th century literature that I enjoy, it has a real darkness to it. But Jane is what sets it apart for me. Bearing in mind that this was written in the mid 1800s, in hindsight, she is quite a modern character. The fact that she’s a woman does play a role, because obviously back then, women were seen as inferior to men. But Jane is not just a modern woman, she is a modern character. Her morals are relevant to both men and women. She has a steadfastness and ruggedness that isn’t really seen all that often in books of this type. She’s not pretty, she has no finery, but she does have a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to speak it. Yet even with all that fire inside her, she knows how to keep a cool and calm exterior, and is always respectful of her own values above any kind of temptation – even if it’s clear she wants nothing more that to give in. The courage to be able to move on from so much hurt is something that really spoke to me. It’s this strength of will and heart which gives the entire book its power. Jane Eyre’s character has endured for over 150 years now, and I expect she’ll still be there in another 150.

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VALERIAN
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick

When I thought about doing this list, Valerian was one of the first characters that sprang to mind. He has to be one of the most intriguing antiheroes in the world of children’s books, and I’m always a bit put out that the series isn’t more well known. Valerian is a stage magician who has also dabbled in the occult, culminating in him selling his soul with the promise that it will be taken from him in fifteen years. When that time rolls around, he and his servant Boy embark on a frantic search to find the Book of Dead Days: the only artefact which may be able to save him.

Valerian is what makes the book for me, and I was always hoping for some kind of prequel story that would let him have even more ‘screen time’. His mysteriousness is brilliantly offset by how quickly his mood can change: one moment he’s suave and subdued, the next he’s shouting and smacking Boy around the ears. All in all, he is not a nice character, but it’s so fascinating watching the way he moves – especially as the story progresses and he grows more desperate, going to ever-darker depths to achieve his salvation. He sort-of reminds me a little of the character of Dorian Gray in a more kid-friendly way. It’s clear that his descent into oblivion is inevitable, but the journey we get pulled into on the way towards it is too engrossing to ignore. And despite everything, I always found myself rooting for him in a strange way. Valerian is one character who definitely deserves more attention – and, personally, I’ll always be wishing for that prequel!

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LYRA BELAQUA
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

This trilogy is one of the best known fantasy series of recent years, and in my opinion, it is very deserving of all its praise. I have read these books more times than I can count. And one of the main reasons why I like them so much is the main character, Lyra. She is a half-wild adolescent girl who hails from another world where souls exist outside of the body in the form of animals called dæmons. When her best friend is kidnapped and taken to the North, Lyra determines to find him, beginning a quest that takes her across worlds, and eventually embroils her in a heavenly war.

What I love most about Lyra is the fact that she behaves like how a child would in real life. While I’m a fan of books that have a more fairytale-style aspect to them, I admire how Philip Pullman has stayed away from giving Lyra a rose-tinted glasses appearance. She is, in a sense, gritty: she is mischievous, impatient, curious, and prides herself on her ability to lie convincingly. This last point makes it somewhat ironic that she is the only one who can read the alethiometer: a device that only tells the truth. And even though she enjoys spinning tall tales, on some occasions it is this ability which saves her life. But for all her shortcomings, she is also loyal, determined and loving, and learns many life lessons as she undertakes her quest. She isn’t a bad kid; she’s just a kid, and reacts to what goes on around her the way any kid would. She has a sense of being very natural and it’s a joy to behold. The first time I read Northern Lights, I was Lyra’s age, and I instantly connected with her because I never felt as though I was being presented with a child character who I couldn’t believe. Like any kid, Lyra is far from perfect – and that is exactly what makes her so perfect.

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DEATH
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is one of the easiest choices on this list for me. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first picked up The Book Thief, but I was hooked from the start and devoured it in a couple of days. I was thrilled when I found out it was being made into a movie. I just hope that, in the film, they get this character right. His name is a pretty obvious giveaway to who he is. Death serves more as a narrator than a physical character, telling of his time watching a girl named Liesel Meminger throughout the Second World War. In the middle of Nazi Germany, her foster family take the huge risk of sheltering a young Jewish man, while Liesel nurtures her love of books, even going so far as to steal them from burning piles in the street.

To begin with, I thought the idea of Death as a narrator, and especially during so dark a period as the Second World War, was something pretty fresh. It would have been so easy to make him a depressing and overbearing presence, with no personality and basking in the fact that there is so much destruction around him. But it actually turns out that he is quite the opposite: he is horrified by how much pain mankind brings down upon itself. He is frank and somewhat cynical, as you might expect from a Death persona, often interrupting the narrative with bullet-pointed lists regarding something that has just happened, or mentioning about how much he wishes for a break from his job. For such a serious subject matter, I was chuckling to myself all the way through this book, and that was all mainly down to this character. Like Neil Gaiman’s similarly unique take on Death in the Sandman comics, he makes us think twice about exactly how we view the end of life, and the personification of it.