Full of imagination, a ninja-wizard, a mermaid-witch, magic and mayhem. Never stop believing…
Return to Roar is the second in the ‘Roar’ trilogy and is the follow-up to Land or Roar. I strongly advise reading the first book before diving into this one as the story builds on the events that have occurred previously.
Twins Arthur and Rose have navigated the first weeks of high school and are really looking forward to half-term. Half-term means a week at grandad’s house and that means it is time to head back to Roar - the fantasy land that they created and that is reached by crawling through the camp-bed in grandad’s attic. Roar is looking resplendent. Light is illuminating the Archie Playgo and the Rainbow River is glowing. The trees are full of colourful birds, and butterflies and colour-changing ladybirds swoop through the air. There is no sign of the evil Crowky and the Lost Girls are living happily in the Crows Nest, things are just about perfect.
It isn’t long until the excitement is ruined and an old enemy makes his presence felt. A creepy message appears that shocks the twins to their very core…"WHAT’S IN THE BOX?” ‘The Box’ was meant to have been disposed of long ago. It was always filled with Arthur and Rose’s worst fears and if Crowky gets hold of it then it could provide him with the key he needs to get to the home of grandad. The race is on to find the box. With the help of some faithful old friends and some newly invented ones, the twins embark on another epic adventure that will take them far beyond the safe parts of Roar. They must venture to ‘The End’, the place where all things that are not wanted in Roar are sent to. Is this the end for Arthur and Rose…
This is another ROAR-SOME adventure from Jenny McLachlan. It is a middle-grade fantasy adventure filled with mystical creatures, places that could only come from a child’s imagination and magical objects. McLachlan’s world building is fabulous and she totally immerses the reader in it - you feel like you are there. She wastes no time in getting the reader back into the Land of Roar. Within a handful of chapters the children are back into the world they love and from here the action moves along at pace. The chapters are relatively short and that just ramps up the excitement, tension and suspense. There’s a constant need to know what happens next as you always have the sense that something, quite often not good, is never far away.
It felt so good to be back in the Land of Roar. I immediately felt like I was reuniting with old friends, catching up and preparing for another big adventure. And what an adventure it is. Return to Roar is much darker than its predecessor. It is scary, and the cold and eery landscape of the ‘The End’ is a perfect location for the action to play out. There are plenty of times when the hairs will prickle on your neck and shivers will be racing down your spine.
McLachlan introduces more fantastical creatures and places into the narrative. There are honey-badgers who steer a ship, orangutan pirates, glow-in-the-dark tadpoles, ice dragons, wolves and a Vampire waterfall. I wait with anticipation to see what appears in the final book. My favourite character from the first book was Win and I’m glad to see the that he hasn’t changed. He is full of excitement and positivity and is always on hand to provide a marshmallow in any situation. In the time between the two books his wizard-ing skills have improved slightly which is of great relief to Arthur and Rose as they find themselves in some hair-raising situations. I was thrilled to finally meet Mitch, a tattooed mermaid with plenty of attitude and heart.
I really liked how the narrative was driven around the hunt for ‘The Box’ and in finding it the children overcome their fears. We all have a box where our fears live and every now and again those fears jump out. The positive message that readers can take away is that fear can usually be overcome, we just need to be brave enough to face it. As the action unfolds there are lovely messages on friendship and the strength of the sibling bond. The read also provides the opportunity to explore bullying and the impact of social media. The illustrations are fantastic. From the beautiful cover artwork to the black and white illustrations, Ben Mantle expertly brings Roar to life.
The story of Roar is not yet done and there will be a third and final part to the narrative that is published in 2021. I for one can not wait. Return to Roar is wonderfully imaginative and imaginatively wonderful… you’re never too old to have fun.
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to Egmont Publishing for the copy of the book to review.