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It's always a pleasure to step into the worlds created by Vashti Hardy. Returning to the Wide with the first in the Brightstorm Chronicles, is an absolute treat. 'Serpent of the Sands' is Vashti Hardy's most adventurous, absorbing and cinematic book to date - which is rather saying something! It's action-packed, and full of mystery and surprises. It's fantasy world-building at its most expansive and ambitiously imaginative. This is a fairy-tale Dune, though a lot more fun and exciting. Suffice to say, I absolutely loved this one.

A leap of faith in a race against time. When Princess Ganzorig's uncle falls gravely ill, she sneaks out of the Citadel to find a powerful cure, said to be guarded by the Serpent of the Sands. But is it only a story? Is she chasing false hope? But the further Gan travels, the more secrets are revealed - and the more she questions everything she believes...

Initially I wondered whether reading a Brightstorm Chronicles book without the Brightstorm twins would be the same, but Princess Ganzorig wonderfully carries this and she is more than an equal to Arthur and Maudie. Gan is the absolute embodiment of high-spirited adventure: daring, strong-willed, resourceful and noble. She is also not without her flaws; needing to learn a little patience even if time is against her. Her journey across Nadvaaryn is thrilling too. Vashti Hardy's imagination is seriously boundless; we're swept off to floating desert cities, to a House of Chimes where rooms are like cogs containing treasure, and to a crystal island full of danger. And so much more! The serpent itself is gloriously magnificent (so beautifully rendered by George Ermos on the cover). But the serpent, while central to the plot, is also only one part of the adventure. There are lots more surprises and I don't want to give away any spoilers. 

I thoroughly enjoyed 'Serpent of the Sands' and I get the feeling that Vashti Hardy did writing it too. This is the work of a writer at the top of her game, trusting her imagination to take us further into the reaches of the fantastic, widening the lens, the scope and the thrill of her world with daring, majesty and, above all, unfettered joy. I can't wait to see where she takes us next...

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