Book Jacket


rank 190
word count 99265
date submitted 14.06.2012
date updated 19.09.2012
genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
classification: universal

The Cabinet of Curiosities (Hardwicke Chronicles - Volume One)

Adele Barnett-Ward

Exiled for being a witch but unable to perform witchcraft; will her mother's grimoire and her cousin Forester be enough to protect Pelly?


It is tough being a second son when your mother is the Mother of a Coven and needs a Daughter to succeed her. As Forester Hardwicke turns fourteen and begins his training in witchcraft he hopes his life will become easier. He will no longer be at the mercy of his older brother Magnus' spells and once he is qualified he plans to escape the Coven and track down his father, the Magician-Explorer Gwydion Hardwicke.

Instead, Forester's life becomes more difficult and much more dangerous when a mysterious foreign girl arrives, claiming to be his cousin. Greeted with delight by his mother, hostility by his brother and Grandmother; it soon becomes clear that looking after Pelly will be added to Forester's responsibilities.

But who is Pelly Hardwicke? Why is she unable to cast the simplest spell? Can Magnus really be trying to harm her? What is he plotting with the Housekeeper's daughter? Can Forester's Grandmother really be practising the Dark Craft? Why is his mother suddenly so ill? With threats on all sides Forester and Pelly must depend on themselves, their craft, their friends and the mysterious cabinet of curiosities to avert disaster.

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alternate history, coming of age, crossover, culture clash, green issues, magic, series, teenage, witchcraft

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carol jefferies wrote 312 days ago

Hi Adele,

The Cabinet of Curiosities

I enjoyed reading the first three chapters of your fantasy story.

It starts well with Pelly being taken out of school, for a reason unknown to her, and so close to her fourteenth birthday.

I liked the unusual ethnic mix of Pelly's father being an important Chinese political figure and her mother being English. How ever did they meet?

I felt sorry for Pelly being raised in such a cold environment, and well as being sent so far way, alone.

I liked her eventful sea voyage to England and the different personalities she meets on the way.

Chapter three ends well with the appearance of a nosy old woman, who disappears, making Pelly wonder if she had imagined her.

A promising start to a well thought out fantasy tale.

High stars and I look forward to reading more.

Carol Jefferies
(The Witch of Fleet Street)

sheila cooper wrote 327 days ago

Mother and Grandmother witches. Few long sentences and slight grammatical slip ups don't spoil the story but obviously have to be tweaked when finished. Really enjoying it so far x

Juliana S. wrote 333 days ago

CHIRG Adele - I've read through chapter 5 and i think your book is outstanding. Your words are very succinct and your description of the village, train trip, and characters are vivid. You pulled me into your story and I could feel all the emotions Pelly felt. I like the way you've illustrated Pelly's culture shock and I look forward to reading more. I have just one little nit-pick. In chapter 2, the sentence, "She felt as though time was frozen, and moving way too fast." The words "frozen" and "moving" seem at odds with each other. Just a thought. On my WL and high stars and looking forward to reading more. Juliana

Diane60 wrote 335 days ago

I've only gotten as far as chapter 9 and like very much what i'm reading. Will def come back and finish what you have posted. i like the characters, the descriptions, the dialougue and little differences between east and west. this is different and vast and am confident it will do well.

Seringapatam wrote 403 days ago

Adele, I found this to be intelligent writing at its best. Although I dont critique, my opinion is that as a reader I can see this doing so well. Your descriptive voice is superb and you are good with characters. I think you are suited to this genre and this story as the flow and pace of the book coupled with the above detail all works so well and I feel that this is already a book on the shelf in a well known book shop. I wish you luck with this an I loved it. I will score you high for it too. So well done.
Sean Connolly British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks Sean

CJBowness wrote 413 days ago

This is excellent - well written and moving. I'm longing to see what happens to poor Pelly with nothing to eat but coffee beans. I loved the description of the icy kitchen and of Pelly having gained most of her knowledge of such things from books. Without saying so overtly, it is obvious that the poor child is lonely and isolated. A brilliant start! I shall put this on my bookshelf and have given it lots of stars.

I found this on the CHIRG list, having (I think) just joined, and would be really grateful if you would look at mine, The Accidental Adventurers. Thanks.

joemoorhouse wrote 437 days ago

Very enjoyable - kind of reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones (read Charmed Life a lot as a child!).

Jaclyn Aurore wrote 464 days ago

YARG - the Cabinet of Curiosities

what an awful start! Pelly is excited about her 14th birthday and the extra special treat her parents have planned, that involves her leaving school for an unexplainable reason.
My heart ached for Pelly as she feels the abandonment, and I'm hoping for the best even though I feel the worst.

I felt the second chapter to be far different from the first as we get a bit of insight into Pelly's parents... Though as soon as the test started, i felt my heart speed up with anticipation and again by the end of the chapter i was left without words

this is a great but heartbreaking beginning to what i can only imagine will be a fabulous journey

well written - i didn't see anything to edit or nitpick at :)

Jaclyn x
It Never Happened

Andrea Taylor wrote 469 days ago

You have had some very thorough reviews so there is no point in going over various points. I was immediately charmed by this. My curiosity was aroused by the empty house, and saddened and surprised when there was no-one there. In other words, I empathised with your MC. I thought she was perfectly described. Your writing is easy on the eye and I think this has great potential.
The de Amerley Affair

Patty Apostolides wrote 482 days ago

YARG Review -
Chapters 1-7

Overall a very charming story about a young girl, Pelly, who is a daughter of a Chinese politician and a scientist mother. On the day of her fourteenth birthday, she is collected by her father's copter to return to their house from the boarding school. As she arrives home, she expects all kinds of things happening for her birthday - a surprise party, etc. But the house is empty. She is all alone in the house. Wonderful descriptions of the kitchen and Pelly's inner world is well crafted. I could identify with her world. The next day, she is greeted by her mother, who reveals to her the importance of her fourteenth birthday. That is when Pelly finds out her mother is a witch, but she hides her charms from her father.

A meeting occurs between Pelly, her parents, and a man who handles an instrument that depicts witchcraft. She passes the test as a witch and is sent to England to live with her mother's family. The trip to England is very interesting, with all the descriptions of the cultural differences. I liked that the train did not start until it was full, so they had to wait until more people showed up before it departed.

Pelly's introduction to her cousins and aunt and grandmother was quite different from the usual. No one was there to greet her in England, and when kind Phil took her to her family, her grandmother didn't believe she was one of them because of her oriental eyes. She literally threw her out, but her aunt, who happens to be a twin of her mother's, took kindly to her.

When Pelly arrived at the house, given that her father is a politician, I expected there to be at least a housekeeper, or a cook, or someone there to greet her. People of that caliber typically have servants around the house.

Pelly's mother and father leaves much to be desired. There is not enough love or warmth to qualify them as her parents. I wonder if this lack of compassion for her is used as a means to justify her leaving home to live with other people? I had a difficult time with her parents.

I was slightly confused when Pelly arrived in England. Her relationship to her cousins was not clear. How was Phil her cousin? Were Magnus and Forester her aunt's boys? Not quite clear about that. Maybe that can be a little more clear.

Watch out for the dialogue - sometimes quotation marks were missing.

Overall, a magical children's story that will surely enrapture many young people. Worth a six stars and Ed. desk. Will find room to back soon!

The Greek Maiden and the English Lord

Kestrelraptorial wrote 486 days ago

Hi Adele,

This is a comment on the final eight chapters of “The Cabinet of Curiosities”. These chapters introduce and explain some very interesting pieces of this world. The daughter, mother, and grandmother witches needed to make up the head of each coven remind me of the wiccan ‘triple goddess(es)’. The Hollantide Night festival was also an exciting tie to ancient rituals. In China, depictions and artwork of undead are illegal to show, so it makes sense that Pelly would be horrified by the summoning of dead spirits. You’ve got a lot of really cool magical lore here.

I love the gradual forming and increasing of Pelly’s friends-group. She makes friends and teams up with Loveday, Forester, Rufus, and Zuleika while at the same we see their stories unfold as well. Magnus is pretty creepy, although there really aren’t many clues as to what he’s up to, other than I think it was mentioned that he enchants the girls he’s with. Forester, on the other hand, is quite nice and actually surprisingly insightful, able to tell how Pelly is sometimes overwhelmed and confused by the new culture she’s in and what bothers some of his friends.

A world where childrens’ lives are still predominantly dictated by their class, social standing, and heritage puts tremendous pressure on them. The conflict of wanting to be themselves while at the same time live up to what’s expected of them is one of the most real conflicts for young people in life, and the effects on the characters are clearly shown in your story, from Forester questioning how the world works to Pelly being worried that she won’t be able to craft at all to Guy and Loveday almost running away out of shame. Then I got to the end of the twenty-four chapters, and still the questions posed in the book’s pitch have yet to be answered. I would love to read the rest.


benedict wrote 489 days ago

Primarily Yalf but also a CHIRG and YARG!
Sorry, late to the party as ever. This is my review of Adele's Cabinet of Curiosities. I'm 30% in and will keep reading till the end.

As I said when I first read them, the first three chapters really drag you in to the story and are extremely well polished - no doubt with help from Autho! Whilst, more generally, the book is always extremely well written, by the time Pelly gets to the family house, the book simply drags. You're spending far too much time - including at times whole chapters - describing furnishings, architecture and fairly irrelevant details at the expense of pacing, characterisation and your reader's interest in the story. I could chop about a third out of what I have read before and not lose any plot.

Firstly we don't need all this detail and secondly it doesn't seem very natural for the characters to give it to us. I was totally hooked and looking forward to what was going to happen next when she showed up to be introduced to the family and then a day (more or less) seems to pass in which she walks about a bit, talks about cushions and yet learns nothing about her magic or her relatives. There's all sorts of interesting magical influences and devices you could be talking about but instead we are told in great detail about the windows in her bedroom. I liked the development of the friendship with Forester but instead of letting us enjoy the build up, most of their time together is annotated by the narrator. I'd prefer to have the dialogue reported rather than a summary of it.

I also think it would work better if you simply had school starting the day after she arrives which would explain her lack of orientation and the reason why no one would have bothered telling her anything. As it is, it seems very unlikely the aunt would have allowed her to oversleep or not told her about who her new teacher is etc. By compressing the time span this would be more understandable, whilst you could still include her guided tour with Forester.

The other big problem you have - which is something you're no doubt sick of hearing - is how similar it is to Harry Potter. Whilst HP itself was incredibly similar to The Worst Witch and that was probably a rip off of something else, HP changed children's fiction and unless publishers and agents think you're doing something different enough, they won't touch your book no matter how well written it is. There are of course moments which are extremely unique and original - arriving at the port is great and I liked the train - though it still made me think of the Hogwarts' Express - but you need to go a bit further. I thought you were going to get around it by not having her go to school but just learning magic with her relatives, though this clearly isn't the case. The problem is that, as soon as I had HP in my head, I started finding similarities. I couldn't help but think of the greasy, grumpy teacher being a tad similar to Snape for example. And even if, in another book, I wouldn't have thought that, by writing a book about a girl who discovers she's not just a witch but a very powerful one - confirmed by a sorting process - before travelling to what amounts to a boarding school for her to hone her magic, you're inviting such comparisons.

Still, none of this has stopped me from enjoying it over all and I look forward to continuing reading it. Here are some of the things I really liked about the book. I love Pelly, she's a very complex and original character with interesting facets to her personality. Forester is also likeable though I did feel the picture we first get of him rolling about in the bushes is contradictory to what develops later. Magnus and Morgan are also well drawn. I like your use at times of different sources (diaries / blog) and the misunderstandings between Pelly and Forester are well signposted. However there are times where this technique felt less successful, particularly Pelly's first comments on the house. I'd like more revelations or more hints of magic early on instead of all that interior design basically.

A couple of small things I didn't like. I don't like swearing, not cos I really care but because I know agents won't let you say shit in a kids' fantasy book. I also thought even the suggestion that Pelly may be in love with her cousin would never be allowed to a final edit even if the whole point is to show how Magnus charms people.

Well, I hope that's not too blunt, I'll be back with plenty more once I finish the book and also have detailed notes to send you by e-mail.

I promise I'm enjoying it!

Best of luck,


Grey Muir wrote 490 days ago

Cabinet of curiosities.
Chapter 1
Xian Sheng Shao is never defined as to their role at the school. Perhaps Pelly could wonder why the school administrator would be calling instead of just a secretary? I think that may help. Also, funny enough, is this a male or female administrator?
First chapter starts well. The hook here is soft, which appears to be the mystery of Pelly’s abandonment just before her 14th birthday.
Chapter 2
2nd paragraph after the “********” line, last sentence: The sentence is long and a comma at least appears out of place. “Her mother hesitated( , ) so thinking the sooner the ordeal started the sooner it would be over, Pelly grasped the rings that served as handles, turned them, and let the doors glide apart.”
I suggest: “Her mother hesitated. Thinking the sooner the ordeal started, the sooner it would be over, Pelly grasped the rings that served as door-handles. Turning them, she let the doors glide apart.” See if you think something similar may have merit.
Next sentence: I’d suggest “used” instead of “trialled”. More common word and “trialled is an odd usage that may be best avoided.
“But you said it had to be calibrated! If someone with a know value of magic had a go…” I am unclear if this is the mother speaking or perhaps the father?
Chapter 3
“…the Occident, or Africa,…” I’d suggest “…the Occident, once called Africa,…” Did I get that right? Or is the Occident the entire rest of the Earth? The rest is self-explanatory, I think. Interesting new world you are making in this story. I like the subtleties.
Pelly’s wisdom about it being wrong to associate with someone just because they were born a different way, is a great addition. I certainly applaud the inserted moral.
2nd paragraph after “*****”, 2nd sentence: Suggest adding a comma. “…most of her things had been left behind at school( , ) so she only had a holdall and a backpack.”
There are occasional commas that I would suggest adding. Having said that, unless you’re interested, I’ll go on.
Interesting end to chapter 3.

Chapter 4
Paragraph starting, “When they reached the carriage doors…” – 2nd sentence. “The little space they entered was dazzlingly brightly lit after the dim platform.” I suggest deleting “lit”, and saying “…dazzlingly bright…”. “Lit” is an unnecessary word.
Chapter 5
Middle of last paragraph. Sentence: “On the second storey there was one window with a curtain made of a thin material with lots of holes in drawn across it.” I do not understand “in drawn across it”. Either something is missing or this is some English phrase that as an American, I am ignorant of.
I like the ending where the shrubbery looked back. Nice sentence.
Chapter 6 – No comments. Other than good story.
Chapter 7 –
Last sentence. Is it Madeline or Morgan that forgot about Forester?
I like the conversations by you characters. Very believable and entertaining. You are doing a good job with your characters.
Chapter 8
Interesting switching to a diary to tell the story. Seems to work though.
“…I can’t believe Madeline never even mentioned she had a twin sister.” Would Pelly call he mother Madeline? Perhaps she did before, being so formal. Seems too stiff though. “Mum” is what I suggest.
“Gri-whatsit” – Forester? Did I miss something like a different name for him?
Some sentences are a bit long. Shorter is usually better and simplifies comma conflicts which can distract readers.
“Howell shoved back his chair…” Do you mean Forester? Howell is the little boy.
“We all small children this weird?” Suggest “Were” not “We”.

Love the story. I have you watchlisted and will try to get time on my shelf for your book. Thanks. I'll read more later.

Grey Muir wrote 490 days ago

Cabinet of curiosities.
Chapter 1
Xian Sheng Shao is never defined as to their role at the school. Perhaps Pelly could wonder why the school administrator would be calling instead of just a secretary? I think that may help. Also, funny enough, is this a male or female administrator?
First chapter starts well. The hook here is soft, which appears to be the mystery of Pelly’s abandonment just before her 14th birthday.
Chapter 2
2nd paragraph after the “********” line, last sentence: The sentence is long and a comma at least appears out of place. “Her mother hesitated( , ) so thinking the sooner the ordeal started the sooner it would be over, Pelly grasped the rings that served as handles, turned them, and let the doors glide apart.”
I suggest: “Her mother hesitated. Thinking the sooner the ordeal started, the sooner it would be over, Pelly grasped the rings that served as door-handles. Turning them, she let the doors glide apart.” See if you think something similar may have merit.
Next sentence: I’d suggest “used” instead of “trialled”. More common word and “trialled is an odd usage that may be best avoided.
“But you said it had to be calibrated! If someone with a know value of magic had a go…” I am unclear if this is the mother speaking or perhaps the father?
Chapter 3
“…the Occident, or Africa,…” I’d suggest “…the Occident, once called Africa,…” Did I get that right? Or is the Occident the entire rest of the Earth? The rest is self-explanatory, I think. Interesting new world you are making in this story. I like the subtleties.
Pelly’s wisdom about it being wrong to associate with someone just because they were born a different way, is a great addition. I certainly applaud the inserted moral.
2nd paragraph after “*****”, 2nd sentence: Suggest adding a comma. “…most of her things had been left behind at school( , ) so she only had a holdall and a backpack.”
There are occasional commas that I would suggest adding. Having said that, unless you’re interested, I’ll go on.
Interesting end to chapter 3.

Chapter 4
Paragraph starting, “When they reached the carriage doors…” – 2nd sentence. “The little space they entered was dazzlingly brightly lit after the dim platform.” I suggest deleting “lit”, and saying “…dazzlingly bright…”. “Lit” is an unnecessary word.
Chapter 5
Middle of last paragraph. Sentence: “On the second storey there was one window with a curtain made of a thin material with lots of holes in drawn across it.” I do not understand “in drawn across it”. Either something is missing or this is some English phrase that as an American, I am ignorant of.
I like the ending where the shrubbery looked back. Nice sentence.
Chapter 6 – No comments. Other than good story.
Chapter 7 –
Last sentence. Is it Madeline or Morgan that forgot about Forester?
I like the conversations by you characters. Very believable and entertaining. You are doing a good job with your characters.
Chapter 8
Interesting switching to a diary to tell the story. Seems to work though.
“…I can’t believe Madeline never even mentioned she had a twin sister.” Would Pelly call he mother Madeline? Perhaps she did before, being so formal. Seems too stiff though. “Mum” is what I suggest.
“Gri-whatsit” – Forester? Did I miss something like a different name for him?
Some sentences are a bit long. Shorter is usually better and simplifies comma conflicts which can distract readers.
“Howell shoved back his chair…” Do you mean Forester? Howell is the little boy.
“We all small children this weird?” Suggest “Were” not “We”.

Love the story. I have you watchlisted and will try to get time on my shelf for your book. Thanks. I'll read more later.

singfam wrote 491 days ago

A Yalf and YARG review. :-)

HI!! started out really enjoying this fun story with its unique little Pelly. I enjoyed feeling her personality come alive with attitude, and pride that helped me to really feel for her as she is dumped from her home into a world she has been taught was inferior. What a painfully difficult experience.

She has a right to all those tears expressed so beautifully in chapter 5 , even though I think the description of her sadness might be a bit overly done. Sometimes we get so focused on our writing, that our creativity becomes a distraction to the feelings we want to portray.

Overall though, I thought your writing skills are very good. Smooth flow of thought. Your dialoge moves quickly and takes the story along very nicely.

Your descriptions are also done really well, but There might be an excess of those as well. In chapter 8 - where her journal comes in, I thought I would be enlightened as to more of her own personal thought and feeling, but was over whelmed with more description. Your description up to that point was good enough to take me there, so that writing about it in her journal isn't really nescesary.

By this time, I was really looking for some pointers as to where this plot was going to take us. I started skimming, then skipping. Couldn't ever find it. I know- you cant really get into the story when you do that, but I was really getting curious as to what she was going to do with her magic besides "charm" people. I hadn't seen much of any magic to give me any kind of clue before then. Maybe Im a little ADHD. Maybe Im very impatient, but I like to be "teased" with a little peak into what might be coming. maybe allow her to start discovering surprising things about her powers each day while she is getting used to her new life. maybe there are things here at the house that trigger powers within her.

so, just a readers thought.

Other than the bit of excess and opting to take your reader for the "long ride", you show great talent as a writer. I didnt get stuck on the editing. Your writing invites me into her world--a world full of charming characters and fun curiosities.
Good luck to you!
Jeannette Singleton

Debbie Coope wrote 491 days ago

YALG/YALF review.

Read more chapters: 10-12.

I like how we see Forester rescue his cousin out of loyalty and duty. He does has positive feelings towards Pelly.

Chapter 11 was a favourite chapter where the magic if unfolding. It's a great mix of Jack and the bean stalk meets Alice in Wonderland. Curiouser and curiouser. I want to know more.

There's a lot of judging books by covers, and in chapter 12, Pelly sees her grandmother in a different light.

Still a captivating read for me.

Kate LaRue wrote 492 days ago

YALF review

These comments cover chapter eight and nine. The story seems to be moving along swiftly here. Still, there is quite a bit of description of the layout of the house and Pelly's apartment, which may be an area where you could do some trimming.

Here you introduce Pelly's diary, where she tries to write down her observations as scientifically as possible. I thought this was a great addition to the story, and really captures more of a young teenage voice for Pelly. We also have Forester's journal. I was a bit confused as to the timeline here with Forester's first journal entry, since he begins talking about getting his source Grimoire, but the third person scene where he receives the book from the cupboard is in the next chapter. That scene itself was a bit difficult for me to digest, as we start in third person from Forester's POV, then dive into his journal in the middle of the scene, then back out to third with Forester for a bit, then jump to third Pelly for when she receives her Mother's grimoire, then into Pelly's journal. It is a bit of a roller coaster. This is just my own observation while reading.

Well, that is all I have for now. Hopefully I'll have time to come back before the fortnight is up.

Cariad wrote 492 days ago

Chapter 8

Liked reading the diary entry and seeing things from her point of view, including her impression of the boys. Weird sounding room with walls only to hip height! I really enjoyed the description of the room altogether. This whole chapter has a lot of description but I didn’t mind it. It gave me a very visual overview of the surroundings and how she felt about it. She seems keen on Magnus, but am I right not to trust him? Does he mean what he says?

This is a looong chapter, with different parts/elements in it which I wondered might be separate chapters. Like where we go to the journal of Foster H. for eg, which bit I enjoyed, but seemed almost separate from what had gone before. I thought it was great having the parallel views though. What Pelly thinks and what they do – so different, as things usually are, so maybe it works ok and I’m just waffling! We then go to Forester taking her round the house, which was a jump again.

Loved the man who appeared to be made of wilted leaves – wonderful, and his way of talking which Pelly can’t get to grips with. Seems she’s getting on better with Forester at the end.

Overall, although a very long (to me) chapter with very sections in it, I found it engaging and fun to read.

Kestrelraptorial wrote 493 days ago

All the characters in this story are really interesting and have cool stories. I’m growing to like how Pelly and Forester help each other out and stick up for each other. Pelly still has a crush on Magnus yet Forester has developed a crush on Pelly. That . . . could be trouble. It only became more complicated and interesting when Forester met Zuleika and came to like her, excited that a girl finally wanted to be with him rather than flock around his brother Magnus. I can feel Forester’s jealousy. Awesome story of teenagers’ trials and emotions.

The tension seemed to relax during the harvest festival. That celebration had some cool rituals, especially the carving of the beribboned corn baby. Then we find out Magnus bewitches the girls – ooh, some creepy stuff could come from this. I wonder if he’s been bewitching Pelly – I could certainly see that happening, since he’s frustrated that he feels he’s been ignored and reduced to ‘grunt’s work’ since the Pelly arrived as the long-awaited daughter of the house. The character stories are just getting more and more interesting as they unfold. I wonder how it’ll all come together in the end?

Isabel Parkinson wrote 493 days ago

YALF Review - The Cabinet of Curiosities.

Love the title, for a start - it's amazing what four words can do! Seems just right for a quirky, magical YA novel!

I didn't find a problem with the pacing. Yes, it's a leisurely pace, but Pelly's narrative voice is so catchy, and I didn't feel the need for constant action.

The only problem I found was a small one: the word crafttest - the double t in the middle was slightly jarring, so maybe it would be better with a hyphen..?

Great introduction to Pelly - I like her verve, her strength of character, the touch of humour in her narrative - and the description of the "real kitchen" was just perfect: made me feel all warm inside!

Madeline's dialogue starting "Nothing’s too much trouble for my little girl, although I suppose I can’t..." is missing speech marks at the beginning.
Liked the little awkward conversation between Pelly and her mother, about halfway through. So relatable!
Great characterisation and great drama towards the end.

Pelly's reaction to typical English familiarity was spot-on, and so was her struggle with functioning in another language: not relatable for everyone, but it was for me and it made great reading :)

The menu translation, especially the "confused chicken egg" made me laugh. Not much else to say about this chapter - smooth dialogue that kept me reading, and Pelly's narrative continues to please me..

Phil is a brilliantly crafted character, and your description of the idyllic village through Pelly's eyes was very pleasant to read.
The last line of the chapter really excited me and I had to read on!

Forester made me laugh, as did Pelly's reaction to him.

Pelly's dialogue starting "She didn’t even say you were twins. In fact…” has an accidental line break in the middle (tiny nitpick, I know!)

I enjoyed the development of Forester and the banter with his brother.

Mrs. Havisham's long speeches gave me a great image of her, but I think adding a few commas or dashes might make the long sentences slightly easier to read, especially in: "...eyes are the most peculiar shape do you think they are all like that or is there..." The idea that she can speak for three or four lines at a time without taking even a small breath doesn't seem quite right IMHO.

The only grammatical error I found was when Forester's mother shouts "Quick as you can please boys.” I think it might sound better with commas somewhere... Maybe surrounding 'please'?

That's all I've read for now, but I think you have a great story with very likeable characters. Best of luck!!

D.J.Milne wrote 494 days ago

Hi Adele
YALF Review
The Cabinet of Curiosities

Chapter 1

This feels like quite a cold opening chapter, but I have the feeling it is meant to be this way, reflecting the rather cold life that Pelly has. It sets up a slow sense of mystery and is very descriptive.
I would have liked to know where this was set. I assumed after reading the names used that it was in the orient somewhere but I wasn’t 100% sure. Also with limocopters and rikcopters is this set in the future? I would have liked to have this made clearer at the beginning.

Chapter 2

I did sometimes feel that the vocabulary was a little advanced, for example the word ‘mitigate’, ‘occidental’ ‘unethical’
The idea of English people having magical abilities makes me wonder what has happened in England for this to be the case.
…children from craft (that means magical)… do we need the brackets. Given the brackets are here it makes me believe that Pelly already knew about the
…a small dusty man… was he covered in dust?
She saw Meng twitch the machine… would snatch or whisk not fit better.

Chapter 3

Here we find out Pelly is Chinese.
Sweet-enough-to-rot-your-teeth voice ….very nice line.
A knife clotted with honey… great line
Nice hook at the end with the disappearing woman.
I have enjoyed this chapter the most. The writing is very clever and the scenes on the boat and at the quay are great. I felt I was starting to engage with the story here.

Chapter 4

I found the description of the train carriage a bit long
‘They’re under a stasis,’? I didn’t understand this expression at all.

Chapter 5

There is some lovely descriptive writing of meeting Old Phil. I loved the soporific effects when Pelly strokes the cat and watches the bees on the lavender, so well written.
‘Pelly had always wanted siblings’…again I feel siblings is again quite advanced vocab
The new village and Pelly’s family home are also fantastically written but perhaps the physical descriptions of the house are a little too long and I wonder if they would hold the attention of some who want more story or action.
‘And the shrubbery looked back.’ Great hook!

Chapter 6

In the first description of the boy, Forester, from the bushes you use brackets to mention his clothes. I am not a big fan of brackets and I notice you use them a bit. They feel like they break things up and throw the POV into that of the writers as if to justify things. If it were me, I would have tried to incorporate the same info from Pelly’s first sight of the boy
‘….his grin really did reach nearly from ear to ear. He was wearing rather crumpled looking shorts and a grubby blue shirt. Pelly was reminded of….’
I liked the way he bellows ‘DO YOU SPEEK ENGLISH?’ as people do with foreigners.
When you introduce Mrs Havisham, I like the way you describe her but I felt the sentence could be tighter like…
‘While Pelly was struggling to keep up with the questions a woman trundled towards them from the now dark recesses of the hall. She had a flushed face and graying hair and a puffy, wrinkled appearance, which reminded Pelly of an inflatable-doll with a puncture.’
Sometimes you do have some quite long sentences.

Well I must say that I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. The first chapter lacked some of the atmospheric richness of the others and as I said I would have liked more grounding in the fact that Pelly was in China at the beginning. Also, even after reading the six chapters I still couldn’t place the book in time. I still assume it is meant to be in the future, or perhaps it doesn’t matter?
So good luck with this, you are a talented writer and very poetic and I can still picture your scenes in my head after having read them a great skill when painting pictures with words.


Cariad wrote 494 days ago

Chapter 7

Not a whole lot to say about this chapter. Enjoyed reading it but only had these comments to make that may (or may not!) be useful:

We find Forester under a window, eavesdropping. Don’t think you need ‘’the window’ in ‘as he approached the window..’ since you just mentioned it. Just ‘as he approached’ avoids repeating. Also wonder if you need a ‘since’ or something in ‘Either Phil or Grandmother, or both……. Under the window, they had set..’ that comma seems not enough. Putting ‘since they had set…’ might avoid that, but as ever, may just be me. Need comma after ‘for a while’ ? (if you studied them for a while, you would notice..)

Was quite sorry to hear that friendships were spoilt by the test separating those with magical ability from those without, but very true to life. I thought the next bit where he goes in and disturbs his brother was funny – but I did think it was a bit long. You could cut it down a bit and get to the important point (about the daughter of the house) sooner I think. The really interesting bit, and the bit with the tension and set up of trouble to come, is after he hears that she’s arrived, and I did begin to wonder before that what was meant to be so important about his brother being with a girl behind the curtain.

Really liked the ‘bog off’ comment – oddly modern in that context, but he began to over say it during the daughter of the house part – almost every comment, and it began to lose its impact.

Overall an enjoyable chapter. Improved by? Hmm…. Maybe that exercise again of losing a hundred words from it? Always, in my experience, improves things by tightening it all up. Will try and do another chapter later today.

Jessicaw wrote 495 days ago

More Chirg/yarg/yalf

I’m still absolutely loving this book. It’s incredibly well-written. I’ve read up to chapter 8.

CH 5: ‘goodnaturedly’ seemed a bit of an awkward word to me.

CH 6: about ‘casing the place’. Pelly claims not to have touched her bags, but she WAS tangled up in one, so this isn’t true, strictly speaking. I know it doesn’t matter.

Paragraph beginning ‘A tall slender woman…’ I thought there were too many ‘and’ in the description of her.

Just after the conversation about her mother’s identical twin: ‘Pelly had been going to say…’ ‘Pelly had intended to say…’ or ‘Pelly was going to say…’ would read better.

A bit further on when Pelly talks about how long she’s staying, you use brackets. I don’t think the brackets worked so well when used in conversation like this. How would she have said this part of the sentence so that the brackets could be heard? I would remove them.

Oh, and you do same a bit further down, when Morgan is speaking about the tower room.
I love how the bed and the duvet are like clouds.


JMF wrote 495 days ago

Chapters Seven and Eight
I really like the conversation between Magnus and Forester and I love the sentence "Your brain really is made of wood, Tree." Great nickname!
Chapter Eight
You spell Madeleine like this and also Madeline.
Pelly calls her mum by her name - I found this odd, given that she calls her Mum in chapter two.
Not sure she'd call her mum by her name even in her journal given conventions???
A long description of the rooms in the house - I have to be honest and say I switched off a bit in the process of reading this and ended up glossing over it. I think it needs shortening.
Quite a few switches of points of view - and first person versus third - so I found it difficult to adjust my mindset.
Other than that it's fairly rolling along.

Lucy Middlemass wrote 495 days ago

This is some more YALF

The Cabinet of Curiosities

Chapter Nine

I like the two types of “flew” in the opening. I think you could take out “practically” although I can see why it’s there. More fun with a little confusion perhaps?
“simply melted away” isn’t really simple. Did they melt or just vanish? If they melted, what did that look like?
“static movement” is nice, of course.
“As his mother…” I think there’s something missing in this sentence or it’s split up wrongly.
“It’s funny how grimoires sort of look like their owners” is a pretty fab idea.
You have grimoire with and without the capital letter.
I like Destiny being the name of a wayward donkey.
“you won’t want to have to be doing translates all the time…” I wasn’t sure if this is deliberate or should be “translations.” Possibly it’s one of your word changes.


kata wrote 496 days ago

YALF? YARG review

Hi Adele

It's been a while since I read this, as it's already on my shelf. But here's thoughts on chapter nine for you!

You need a comma or two in the sentences:
-When Pelly arrived he pulled out a chair...
-As his mother turned back to face him he realized he'd been holding his breath...

Forrester says ' He couldn't quite work our which book.- Should be ' I couldn't quite make out. Also, the last sentence in that paragraph needs more commas.

That's all I could find, as I got sucked into the story again. Excellent imaginitive work!


Lucy Middlemass wrote 496 days ago

This is a YALF review

Chapter Eight

I like the language Pelly uses at the start of this chapter, her trying to be scientific is sweet and appealing. Her observations are a good way to catch us up with her point of view and describe her surroundings. I still think (sorry) that there’s too much description. Pelly doesn’t interact with anyone or do much while this is going on. I like the method you’ve used to give the information but I don’t know if it’s all essential.

There are a lot switches in point of view in this chapter which do keep the pace enjoyable but possibly feel disorganised. That might be because I don’t understand the reason for it. I’d keep to one person for each chapter. You’ve separated it off and it’s perfectly clear when it changes so that’s a plus. Also the voices are very different and that’s enjoyable too.

“girls camps” is missing its apostrophe.
Forgive me, but it sounds like she’s going to er…urinate through the curtains.
I like the description of little Howell. Love the way he speaks too.
The part beginning “Forester had always believed…” contains more than one point of view. So this chapter has Pelly making her observations, then the third person Pelly, then third person Forester and Pelly in the same bit, then Forester first person, then third person Forester and Pelly in the same bit. That’s quite a lot in one chapter.
“They must fold up really small.” is a lovely mistake to make.
You have both horseshit and horse shit.
I like the rabbit analogy. I think there’s too much in terms of description again when Forester is showing Pelly round. I think I want more story and more character - there’s plenty of this things it just sometimes feels hard to get to. It’s a fab and original story though.


Debbie Coope wrote 497 days ago


Read some more chapters: 7-9.

I like the descriptions. I like writing them myself. I guess some of the issues are whether it needs to be broken down into bite size chunks, or taken as a whole. I'm happy with how you've done it.

Using the diary for internal thought process is good, as we know you have two MC's, so we get an insight into there characters this way. They are opposites in more ways than one, but are sharing new knowledge with the grimoire. An intriguing book.

Really liked the pet name: Tree. Also the dialogue from Howel and Mr H. Pelly thinking literally adds humour to this lovely story so far: " keep away from you Grandmother's wing."

EMCART wrote 497 days ago


Hi Adele,

I really enjoyed this. I’ve read 5 chapters and it seemed to fly by. To be honest, when I read the pitch I thought ‘Witches. Been done. Yawn’ but actually I found the story very original. I think the witches are just a grounding for a much more interesting story about bigger issues. I was just getting to the part where Forester is introduced so I can’t comment on him, but I really like Pelly.

Regarding the pitch, I found it a little strange that the tag line is about her, but then the pitch switches to him, and that it mostly focuses on him when the first 5 chapters are all hers. I’m wondering whose story this is? Maybe both, but it’s hard to tell from the pitch.
I think her story seems more interesting that his. I don’t know what his will be exactly, but from the pitch it seems like an ‘I have to take over the family tradition and I’m rubbish at it’ story, which doesn’t seem just as interesting as her story so maybe the pitch should be more about her? But, as I’ve said, I haven’t got to him yet so I could be wrong.

I noticed that I immediately became interested in the story when I realised she was being picked up in a limocopter. Suddenly she became an interesting person with an interesting (and very alien to most people!) life. I thought maybe you could start the story with this scene – her getting into the copter – while she reflects on why she’s been taken out of school. I thought that would grab the reader’s attention more than someone simply being taken out of school (which isn’t that interesting).

I liked the idea of a sea journey to England but I was disappointed it was over so fast! I think you could extend this section, and use it to reflect on her feelings about leaving home, being alone, and encountering foreigners for the first time, especially her friendship with the first magical person she’s met. I think if you extended the section it would give more of a sense of the vast distance and differences between the culture she’s leaving and the one she’s heading towards. It’s not a trip to the next town, it’s symbolic of a major rift in her life and I thought it deserved more significance.

I liked the environmental themes raised by the restriction of electricity. I think that would interest kids who have grown up with personal phones/computers/ipods etc and can’t imagine life without them.

I like that this raises a lot of complex, important social issues and could teach kids some important things, but does it in a way they can enjoy and relate to. Issues of prejudice, class and environmental concerns are handled well and made simple and appropriate for the target age group.

I was quite touched when she finally cries over her mother’s betrayal.

I liked that Old Phil smells of cut grass and toasted bread. Very comforting.

The chapters all end really well, I particularly liked the ending of chapter 5 ‘And the shrubbery looked back’.

The writing is really good, so I haven’t much to say about that. I think the story is really promising, and I love that it’s ABOUT something, rather than being fantasy with nothing substantial or meaningful to give it depth.
If the rest of the book is as good as the first 5 chapters I can’t imagine why something this original and well written wouldn’t get published. Good luck!


Kestrelraptorial wrote 497 days ago

A unique take on the young wizard theme. Wei/Pelly seems like a cute charater. Interesting to have a child from China travelling to a very different culture in England. It’s fun to read that she gets confused at phrases like ‘are you decent’ and being surprised at how such a small country like England can take so long to cross by train. I like calling magic ‘the craft’. What was the inspiration for the name Pelly?

JMF wrote 497 days ago

Chapter Six
Only a tiny point - it's a bit confusing when you say 'her mother's voice said, "Shh." For a second I thought her mother was there.
I loved the description of Pelly getting tired and being shepherded to bed, climbing into a cool cloud and tumbling into sleep.
If you are looking to cut anything, perhaps some of the questions Morgan asks her, after all we get the idea that Morgan in inquisitive.
Another kitchen description - maybe a bit long, as Lucy says, although it does contrast nicely with the kitchen in Pelly's old home.

Cariad wrote 499 days ago

A YALF crit.

Ok, here starting at chapter six as I said, and as ever, take or leave my comments or suggestions of course, they’re just what occurred as I read.

Wasn’t sure you needed to say (visible because he wore shorts and a short sleeved shirt.) it seemed a bit deliberate as if you’d thought, oh, I better explain how she can see them. Also I’d prefer the sentence without the ‘the’s - as in – ‘green streaks on his knees and elbows, muddy patches of skin, leaves and…. ‘ etc. it just reads a bit smoother.

Think you need a comma after Pelly in – ‘before her brain had fully processed this, Pelly…’ otherwise it reads ‘before her brain had fully processed this Pelly…’ Don’t think you need ‘in a way’ after ‘but he took pity on her.’ – weakens it a bit.

Liked his bellowing ‘DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH..’ made me laugh, created a great visual image. Do you need to explain the case thing? It’s funny with her just not getting it, we understand why she doesn’t, and technically, she has been touching her bag – her foot is tangled in one. Her angry response is funny – so indignant and pompous – and lo and behold, he’s her cousin – nice set up of future friction there.

Like the description of the inside of the house, but you have too many ‘and’s in this bit I think: ‘…jangle of earrings and bracelets and tangle of scarves and wild hair and enveloped…’ could just say – ‘jangle of earrings and bracelets, scarves and wild hair…’ also think you need a comma after hair as I read the enveloped as part of the list for a second there, till it was obvious it wasn’t. Might also just have a full stop where it says: ‘…and passages and a grand wooden staircase led….’ ‘Passages and a grand wooden staircase…’ avoids the two ‘and’s’ together.

The chapter covers her arrival and being taken in to the house. If I were to suggest anything, it might be to tighten it up a little. There’s quite a lot of talking and questions and description in the second half, which I felt might benefit from being cut down a little bit – maybe just do the exercise of trying to take out a hundred words – this often trims things you could do without.

Overall, enjoyed the chapter, and will do another one tomorrow. Sorry I’m a bit slow with it, will do my best to speed up!

JMF wrote 500 days ago

I'm enjoying re-visiting this and can now remember why I gave it six stars! I will be returning it to my shelf for another spell soon. I have already commented on chapters 1-5 but for the sake of reminding myself of the story and to comment on cutting out bits, I have read these again. I enjoyed them just as much the second time round as the first. A couple of comments: If you are looking for things to cut I think the kitchen description goes on a bit too long. Conversely, I loved the description of the train. I find all the little details about the carriages and the way things work, fascinating and I really entered into the whole world you've created, at this point. I thought the description of her journey over on the boat could have been expanded (if the characters she meets are important to the story) or cut out altogether (if they are not). And I thought the description of her English relatives' house could be cut a little as at that point my concentration waned a tad. I shall return with more comments when I have read a few more chapters.
All the best,
Shadow Jumper

Jessicaw wrote 501 days ago


I like the title, and the pitch. If anything, the pitch is maybe a tad too long, with one or two too many questions at the end, but this is really nit-picking on my part.

I liked the opening, no cumbersome descriptions of the scenery or a barrage of fantasy terms/names, and a bit of intrigue to make the reader continue on. Nice and straightforward!

You use brackets a few times , but I’m not sure you actually need them. Commas may be enough? I think the brackets sort of break the text up, and holds the reader up for a split second.

Ch 1: Paragraph beginning ‘The double doored fridge…’ ‘larder cupboard’ – I would have preferred just ‘larder’. That would also avoid the repetition of the work ‘cupboard’, as you use it again in the following sentence.

Ch 2: At the end of the paragraph beginning ‘Pelly suddenly found…’ You say that ‘time was frozen, and moving away too fast.’ Maybe add ‘at the same time’, since these two statements are contradictory.

Ch 4: I really enjoyed the discussion about the different classes of train travel! Donald makes some good points!
I’m hoping to read more next week. I’ve really enjoyed the first four chapters, and I didn’t think that anything needed cutting out. But if I HAD to mention something, then perhaps the part when she’s going through customs and struggling to find her way on the quay side, and the description of all the individual compartments and features in her train carriage.

Overall, I think this is a brilliant book, extremely well written and polished. There are so many acute and funny observations in the text, and a great storyline. I’ll try to find some space on my shelf!

David James Kane wrote 503 days ago

A YARG review of the first three chapters:

Great opening paragraphs. The mystery at the centre of chapter 1 and the first part of chapter 2 draws the reader in, and Pelly's innocence/ignorance/vulnerability in the early stages of the story is endearing. The hilariously mundane use to which Pelly's mother puts her powers is enjoyable; and the author does a good job of establishing tensions within Pelly's character, reflected in her parents' personalities.

Fish-out-of-water tales create wonderful opportunities for high jinx, and chapter 3 left me in no doubt that the author is adept at exploiting them to great effect. For the most part, the author navigates the sometimes tricky cultural sensitivies that an East meets West tale can trigger in some readers; and it seems likely that Pelly's amusingly "innocent prejudices" will be reality checked in later chapters.

If I have a (hopefully constructive) criticism, it's the pacing. The story unfurls at a leisurely rate. While this makes it easy to follow and gives the author an opportunity to build out the universe, some readers may lose patience (or attention) before the book kicks up a gear in chapter 3. A suggestion would be to edit out some of the non-essential information/backstory at the beginnings of chapters 1 and 2 and combine the remaining text into one taut, action-packed opener. Although this would mean sacrificing some very good writing/detail, it would propel the reader to "the meat" of chapter 3, where the novel becomes harder to put down.

Pacing aside, there is much to like about this novel. The writing is fresh and witty. The concept is strong with an original take on the genre. The characters are interesting and the plot entertains.

Recommended with stars aplenty.

David James Kane
The Scattersmith

Lucy Middlemass wrote 503 days ago

This is a YALF review

The Cabinet of Curiosities

This book is fun, I like it. I read six or seven chapters of this before so I’m picking it up from there. I think there’s something of a delay in getting the story started, although I enjoyed the details of Pelly’s journey and her family life, there’s not much Hardwicke or a Cabinet. In Chapter Seven, I think the brothers are great together and I can’t read the phrase “bog off” too many times.

Chapter Seven

“crafttest” looks like “craftiest” and I’d forgotten how to read it properly. Could you hyphenate?

“if you studied them…” This is a move into the second person, which is fine and I understand why but I’d consider trying it from Forester’s point of view instead. In the second person, it gives the narrator (you) a voice and an identity and also makes the reader (me, obvi) aware of themselves in relation to the story. There’s an amount of friendliness and familiarity about this which is nice but it makes me question how consistent the point of view is.

“lost the childhood solidity…” and then you describe things that sound, if anything, more solid, like definition in his jaw and cheekbones.

“Elspeth pretended…” is a switch in point of view, sort of, to Elspeth. I don’t know if that sort of thing matters to you.

“as his brother wheeled…” Makes me think he’s on wheels.

I really like Forester baiting his brother, especially the part about how hard it must be to find your way around a new place with no candle.

I love that he calls him Tree.

“like you’ve been boiled and stuffed” is nice. I’d break up Mrs Havisham’s speech a bit here. The way she speaks is good though, plenty of character.

If you’re looking to cut a little, I’d say the description of Hardwicke’s kitchen is too long. The best part is when Forester is thinking about how much he loves the table. Descriptions of places, I think, are better when they are done through a character interacting with them.

More to follow…


Kate LaRue wrote 503 days ago

YALF/YARG review

I read the opening of this a while back and enjoyed it, but never took the time to comment. Based on the opening chapter, I think you've created a likable MC in Pelly. While not all teenagers have politician and scientist parents, many have parents who are both busy with work, so feeling neglected is something your readers will find relatable. As Pelly runs down the list of reasons why she could possibly be summoned from school, we get a clear picture of her family life, as well as how much she tries to keep her parents' detachment from bothering her.

Because you asked on the YALF forum about areas that could be cut back, I tried to look for that as I read. Maybe in chapter one, when Pelly is in the kitchen, the mention of the magazine article, and her assumption that there were no boxes for warm, welcoming, or comfortable, is an area where you could trim. You've already given the lovely description of what a kitchen ought to be, and she's named this the anti-kitchen, and compared it to an operating theatre.

In chapter two, there is a bit of POV shift after Pelly is tested and the historian is trying to pack up and get out of the room.

Otherwise all I have to say about chapter 2 is poor Pelly. And how did her mom end up with her dad?

I find it amusing that Pelly thinks the English are barbarians and backward because they ride bicycles or use horse-drawn carriages, but her own parents' relationship is so formal and stiff and submissive on her mother's part (despite being a brilliant scientist) that it feels like it belongs to a different era.

In chapter three Pelly has a revelation that it might be wrong to avoid someone just because they were born a certain way, but that doesn't seem to stretch to her views on 'servants' yet, based on her attitude toward the stewardess. I hope this gradually changes.

I really like the translation of the menu card into Mandarin. None of that food sounded appetizing.

Red eyes were not brave–this is a gem.

Phil is an interesting character, and I love how you weave the 'craft' thoughout, first with the witch from the boat, then with Phil and his tea and bees and cat.

I can't find anything to critique in chapter six. I like Morgan and her barrage of questions, she seems quite energetic. Forrester's first appearance makes him seem a bit immature, but that isn't a bad thing, as most boys his age can be immature at times.

Hopefully I can read/comment further. I am enjoying the read so far.

Debbie Coope wrote 503 days ago

YALF/YARG review.

I read the first three chapters 100 days ago, and commented then, that I would return to read more. Pelly had just landed in England.

I like how you've painted England as a magical land, turning the table on how we might think of China. We get a glimpse into how Pelly sees this new land with her misunderstanding of 'sandwiches,' which I liked.

I think the sentence: 'the cat clenched its paw so a claw dug into Pelly's let...' needs reworking.

Liked: she turned to the shrubbery. And the shrubbery looked back.

Need correct hyphen: wasn(')t and I(')m

Punctuation: ....with a wry smile(.)

hers (.) 'I'm delighted...'

I don't mind the odd CAPITALISATION, but maybe you could describe her excitment.

New paragraph: 'So it's a boarding school.' missing quotes

Need to punctuate tha paragraph: whilst Pelly was struggling...
I had to take a deep breath to read it.

Quote error in paragraph: Morgan turned her attention...of the way,(") she explained,(.) But...

The paragraph: when Mrs Havisham trundled... Doesn't flow quite well. I think it's the quoted part. I wonder if it needs breaking down.

I'm enjoying the return to this story. I like the slow reveal of magic. The conflict remains between abandonment and acceptance within her families, which is great at keeping the tension.

Will be back to read more. This book has my backing.

Scott Butcher wrote 508 days ago

YARG review

Hi Adele,

I thought that was powerful and very well written. I read to the end of chapter 2. It was how I would picture the life of a well off young Chinese lady. Very distant from her parents; a little bit spoilt (well maybe a lot), with the west not thought of in the best of light. The coldness of the father was palpable. Especially at the very end of the second chapter. The mother was believeable. The background of a foreign Chinese girl who I presume is going to be sent to England has been well set. This book deserves its high ranking. Well done Adele. Six stars from me.

Regards Scott Butcher (The Merlin Falcon)

Simon W Ackred wrote 517 days ago

(YARG Review)


This is fantastic, I have only read two chapters and it has me hooked. I was thinking to myself how I will read stories on this site on my phone, as I could be more comfortable than I would be in the hard backed chair at our computer desk. But after about two paragraphs I completely forgot about the chair.

I love the rhythm of the story; how her brain goes into a frenzy when she can't understand something. It makes her very interesting as she's constantly creating new concepts on top of the ones around her.

You have also done a fantastic job of getting the reader to pose questions to themselves about the world they live in. You have hinted at such a rich tapestry of ideas behind their world, it seems like one of those books where you would want to hear about the world even if nothing in particular were going on in it.

Can't wait to read more and you shall be the first book on my virtual bookshelf

Chris Bostic wrote 522 days ago


A YARG review. Haven’t seen you around on YARG for a while. With a book as creative and unique as this, we’d be thrilled to have you come back and join us.

I read the first three chapters and found the story engaging. It is also well edited, so the following are my nitpicky critiques and general comments:

Chapter 1:
-I notice you have some long introductory clauses, but don’t use the comma. I thought a comma was almost mandatory for any clause over three words, but I could be wrong. Here’s an example in C1, P3: “As she ran across the Courtyard of the North Wind[,] she thought…”
-C1,P4, the first sentence is fairly long. I would be tempted to break it into two at: “As she reached her dorm room[,] she decided upon a surprise party[.] By the time she had packed…”
-I like the description of the anti-kitchen. It creates a very stark, sanitized picture for the reader.
-I really feel for this poor, ignored girl. What a sad existence. Well done conveying those feelings.
-What a curious first chapter. I can imagine no idea why she was abandoned at the empty house. I have to read on to find out.

Chapter 2:
-Nice to see that Pelly’s are actually in the house.
-An inconsistency: In C2, P2, you capitalize Occidental, but you do not in the following paragraph.
-To find out that mother is actually a witch was a big shocker (I didn’t look at the pitch intentionally)\
-Are you going to explain the ‘cough cough’ thing sometime? At first it was amusing; kind of curious. But it is about to get annoying.
-How unusual. I like the idea of a device that detects for magic abilities. Ingenious. And, of course, Pelly is off the charts.

Chapter 3:
-I found it interesting, surprisingly really, that she had to board a boat, and also that it took so long to get to England.
-Your descriptions are great. I particularly liked mustache like a scrubbing brush.
-Wow, this is like going back in time. Gas lights, no energy sucking chargers. Horse drawn carriages!
-This was a solid chapter. Probably the best of the three. It seems like the story is really going to get started moving.

It’s an interesting read. I found it enjoyable and generally curious about what is going to happen. I’ll give you high stars for the fluid style and creativeness.
If you would like to return a read sometime, I would appreciate it.
Thanks, and Best Wishes,
Fugitives from Northwoods

maretha wrote 537 days ago

CHIRG Review
Cabinet of Curiosities (Vol. 1)/Adele Barnett-Ward
Thank you for a most intriguing story. Many have made comments about earlier chapters, which I read, simply for the fun of reading, because I enjoy your writing style and lovely use of descriptive language and dialogue. Mr Drysheart and his description had me in stitches, but at the same time feeling quite nauseated by his "halitosis". Wonderful lines "...he had also clearly breakfasted on something with a powerful, acrid odour, gusts of which blasted out at her with every word." (very real) and then the final straw was that Pelly had to sit right in front where she was "mortified by her humiliations and "sickened by his halitosis." (well contrasted phrases) No wonder she left without eating any of the wonderful goodies from Mrs Havisham's basket.
I'm enjoying Pelly's story and it has enough of mystery surrounding her and her cousin, Forrester, to keep even an older reader like myself riveted to my chair. :-)
High stars from me for an enjoyable reading experience!
African Adventures of Flame, Family, Furry and Feathered Friends

SLFrost wrote 566 days ago

What really amazes me is how some people like top pick apart someones story. There are things in here that in real life wouldn't or couldn't be the way you write them. But isn't that the point behind fiction?! I have not finished yet, I think I'm up to chapter 8 but what I have read so far, I think its great. I like the way you have given us the back story, I think it helps us understand the MC and way she is the way she is. I can't wait to read more. You have drawn me in.

~Evangeline~ wrote 589 days ago

This is one of the more intriguing books I have read here lately, and by the end of chapter four I'm starting to think it's one I could really enjoy. Unfortunately I found the opening chapters something of a slog and I think they need some serious revision. For example, you spend your first chapter establishing the likeable Pelly and setting up a Marie Celeste mystery house which you exploit to fill in a lot of backstory. So far, so reasonable, if a little too long. But then you discard that tension in your next two paragraphs and with a single anti-climatic sentence of dialogue.

"I would have been sure to be here last night if I'd known you were coming back."


That's the sound of me spitting. If the whole point of the empty house was to establish a dysfunctional family dynamic, there are better and more effective ways of doing that.

Your first chapter isn't great - and I believe they have to shine - but it does more than enough to make me want to read on. At the start of chapter two, however, you lose much of the credibility - I may mean "authority" - you had begun to store up. And the rest of the chapter doesn't do much to improve things. The father reads like a cardboard cut-out. Ditto the esteemed historian. And I can only hope the mother gets a chance to redeem herself later. I think the best way to explain my reaction to this chapter is to say that "crafttest" and all the related words really, really annoy me. My eyes would prefer two words. A hyphen even. But I confess I may be prejudiced because I'm still feeling let down.

For me, chapter three is where your story picks up. I might even suggest you throw the first two away and start here. You'd have to tweak things, of course, and feed the necessary backstory in as you go along. But this stranger in a strange land theme is so much stronger and more curious than absolutely everything that went before.

Chapter four, I loved. Scrambled eggs and all. Except I'm not sure how the paparazzi were able to work ahead of customs and immigration. So on the whole I have high hopes for the remainder of your story and I'm expecting a combination of continuing culture-clash and well-done Potteryness, tempered with invention and whimsy. And maybe a prize pig or two. In short, I like the world you are building and the story I think you are telling. But I don't like your opening chapters at all.

I hope this helps


Abby Vandiver wrote 598 days ago

This is a very interesting story. Your writing is good and the first paragraph of your pitch really draws the reader in. The first chapter is confusing for me. I thought the main character was Xian Sheng Shao becasue it reads "When Xian Sheng Shao called Pelly from her calligraphy class to say her parents were taking her home . . ." It seemed as if they were Xian's parents not Pelly's. And Pelly's knowledge of the kitchen came from books where there was "laughter . . . and good smells." How did she discern that from the book?

I think this is a good start.


Debbie Coope wrote 603 days ago


The Cabinet of Curiosities has got me intrigued. I've read the first three chapters and will be reading on. I like the writing style with distinct characters, particularly Pelly. And her parents so cruel to abandon her. I'm looking forward to finding out how she gets on in England.

Highly rated and will be backed.


Stormshine wrote 616 days ago

I love the mix of fantasy and sci-fi in this story. I also like the blend of cultures. That definitely seems to be a theme here.

Pelly is a very likeable character. I like that she has her own biases and you do a good job of showing the current cultural and political climate through Pelly's POV.

In the very first sentence, I was pretty confused. It made it sound like Xeng was calling Pelly to inform Pelly that -Xeng- was being taken out of school and that Xeng is the POV character. Keep in mind that at this point we don't know who the POV character is, so it's important to make that clear.

There was a great buildup of suspense when Pelly comes home after being abruptly pulled out of school and no one is there. It was a little bit of a letdown with all that suspense that the reason was her mother hadn't been told yet. I think it would have been neat if the house was empty because the "crafttest" had been set up waiting for her and she wasn't allowed to know she was being tested. I thought the test as it was was a little anticlimactic.

Chris Whitson wrote 618 days ago


Hi Adele, How about a read swap? Ok, good. I'll go first. Ha ha!
This is a very creative story. You have terrific writing skills and an extraordinary imagination. Your characters and plot are as well crafted as witches!
Plenty of vivid descriptions of age, time, setting, and circumstances bring your story to life. Pelly is an attractive character with insecurities and enough personality to resonate with readers. You have done a wonderful job developing her and her unique family dynamics which give the story originality and depth.
One small thing I noticed: First Paragraph: '....she had no idea her world was about to end.' You may be giving away the surprise to come. You know better than I.
Her awkward relationship with her mother works very well. The entire Chinese politician married to a 'barbarian' is a cultural clash and another welcomed layer of the story. Good job developing that.
Your lead into the 'Craft' is perfect and sets up for a gripping story to follow. The last paragraph of chapter 2: "You won't."............." That is a show stopper and a tremendously powerful statement. You nailed it with that. I'm now hooked on ya' book!!
So glad I decided to do a 'one-sided book swap'. The pleasure was 'all mine'!! :)
Highest praise and stars. Excellent story, excellent!

Tod Schneider wrote 630 days ago

Wow! I just read the first couple chapters, and this is really good stuff. Good storytelling AND good craftsmanship. The concept is entertaining, the setting is cool, the dialogue is smooth as silk. Nothing to pick on here! WL and six stars!
Best of luck with this!

AdeleVBW wrote 641 days ago

Hi, This has potential but this is the advise I have to give. You need to know your market. you have it as a childrens book, young adults, adults fiction etc. focus on the core market you are writing for. In my eyes this story is for children (8-12), If you read the best selling books over the last few years for young adults (13-18), eg the Gone series or the Hunger Game series, this is more in the Harry Potter series. At 99,000 plus words it will be too long for a childrens book (8-12), publishers will not touch a book for this market (8-12) if it has more than 60,000 words. You either need to cut the story down for the children market or beef it up for the young adult market. Like I say it has potential and never be afraid to keep re-drafting your story until you have just right. Please bare in mind I'm not looking to collect browni points here because I'm on the way to getting there, I just want to help other authors make it too. Regards Daniel Jones.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on The Cabinet of Curiosities. You're right, the book IS long, I do need to trim it, but I'm aiming at young adult / crossover. As the book goes on there's material that's not suitable for eight year olds. I think the language is a bit complex for primary age children, too.