Firebird Chronicles, The: Rise of the Shadow Stealers

Firebird Chronicles, The: Rise of the Shadow Stealers

Things are going missing. Can Fletcher and Scoop unearth their own lost history and save the Storyteller's treasure from the shadows?


In this fantasy adventure, Fletcher and Scoop are Apprentice Adventurers from the ancient establishment of Blotting's Academy on Fullstop Island. This is the place where all story characters are trained. The trouble is, they can't remember how they got there.
It's the first day of term, but the two apprentices soon realise something is wrong. Things are going missing, including their own memories, and Scoop has the unsettling feeling that something is creeping in the shadows.
As the children search for answers, they become entangled with the life of the Storyteller, the islands creator and king. They journey to his wedding banquet and find themselves uncovering a hidden past. What is their connection to this mysterious man? And is there more to him than meets the eye?


Rise of the Shadow Stealers is one of those books that you would never normally find but somehow stumble across – or in my case, get sent a copy after a Twitter connection – and reading it makes your week. The premise is charming, fanciful and wonderfully meta: set on an island where fictional characters are trained to fit their roles in their respective novels, Fletcher and Scoop team up for a quest to restore their lost memories of their lives before they were at Blotting’s Academy and to attend the wedding of the mysterious Storyteller. I have to say I found Rise of the Shadow Stealers rather surprising, and not in a bad way. I came to it assuming from the cover and blurb that it would be children’s fiction (not that that’s a bad thing in the slightest. Critics sniffily dismissing something as children’s fiction irritates me no end). It’s actually quite sophisticated for that genre though, interweaving a delightfully whimsical fantasy plot with more mature themes, like maintaining morality in difficult times and finding your purpose, and drawing heavily on religious symbolism and metaphor throughout. This can get a little heavy-handed in places, particularly the religious parallels, but for the most part it’s skilfully interwoven with the fantasy narrative that means you can read it on whatever level you’d like: whimsical fantasy, Christian literature, good old fashioned morality tale and so on. A lot of reviews made comparison to the Narnia series and I can definitely see their point. Rise of the Shadow Stealers stands on its merits as a charming fantasy novel, but it really comes into its own when you delve deeper and think about the messages behind it all. While the plot is technically about Fletcher and Scoop’s quest to reach the Storyteller’s wedding, it’s as much about their growth as characters as it is about getting from to B. This is a world inhabited by purposeful stereotypes (the infinitely wise but slightly batty old mentor, the outrageously evil witch, and even one character who proudly identifies herself as a Snob), who can at times feel a little 2-D by themselves, but this does help to emphasise the fact that the two protagonists develop naturally and realistically enough that I was really very fond of them by the end. Their flaws are what make them important as characters, and so they’re nicely fleshed out and allowed to make mistakes. Fletcher in particular undergoes some notable development, and his transformation is well handled and enjoyable to witness, because the characters, like the rest of the book, are charming and you find yourself really rooting for them as they undergo their quest. The real triumph of the novel, however, is the world building. You can really tell that Ingram-Brown had great fun creating Fullstop Island (which is just the most adorable name ever) from the ground up to create a setting that lives beyond what we see in the story. It’s my favourite kind of world building too, where tiny details and minor characters are fleshed out beyond just filling their role to advance the plot, even if they just appear in once scene. Particular favourites of mine were the batty and slightly weird ladies who run the tea shop and one very special character who appears at the end, who you will have to read the book to find out about. If nothing else convinces you to give Rise of the Shadow Stealers a go, the joy of it’s construction should be all the persuasion you need. You’ve probably noticed the common theme in this review: ‘charming’. You can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading this book, and I would recommend it to anyone out there who needed a little cheer to brighten their week. I’m definitely looking forwards to the sequel and what Daniel Ingram-Brown has up his sleeve for his characters next. ~ , Some Organised Chaos

When I first saw this book, I thought it would be every young teens dream, but as well as this, I was pleasantly surprised to see it is a great read for us adults too! Like a lot of children's films, it has two layers; simple meanings for children to understand, but at the same time an adult storyline that the children won't pick up on. For the teens, they can enjoy the good vs. bad, whilst the adults get to look deeper into things- Dan enjoys writing about spirituality, and you can clearly see that in this book! ~ Single Parent Pessimist ,

This rollicking adventure follows two Apprentice Adventurers, Fletcher and Scoop, as they try to discover why people and objects are mysteriously disappearing from Blotting's Academy on Fullstop Island, the place where story characters are trained. This complex story is reminiscent in tone of the Harry Potter series and Jeanette Winterson's Tanglewreck. Packed with literary references and cleverness, it focuses on the age-old conflict between light and dark, good and evil, and on the power of story. An engaging read for 9- to 14-year-olds. ~ Lucy Pearce, Juno Magazine

My read over the course of this past week has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the most magical piece of fiction I have read since the last time I browsed the Disneyland travel brochures. Daniel Ingram-Brown’s Rise of the Shadow Stealers has captivated my imagination completely and given me a sense of nostalgia I wasn’t sure I would feel again after the trauma of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As part of The Firebird Chronicles series, Rise of The Shadow Stealers follows the fast-paced story of Fletcher and Scoop. What is so great about these two is the realism that is evoked by their characterisation despite the ‘less-than-realistic’ world that they find themselves in. If you put the destiny and the magic aside for a second, Fletcher and Scoop are two very eager, confused and sometimes extremely stroppy young adults. It’s completely believable, relatable and utterly fantastic. Ingram-Brown’s attention to detail is second-to-none and the world he creates for us as the reader is exquisite. His use of description and language constantly conjures up different scenes that are pure, unadulterated magical goodness. There’s a brilliant use of made up names and places: ‘Fullstop Island’, the ‘Creativity Craters’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Noveltwist Cordial’. This ability to play with literary terms that can seem so daunting is exactly why these books are so fantastic for children. Without this becoming a lecture, having worked in schools I can tell you that children do not enjoy reading. That’s not a generalisation but, from my experience, they want to read but it fails to excite their lively minds (hence we are living in the generation of iPad children). Anyway, I digress…. because this book is challenging for a young reader as it stretches their imaginations to a limit that cannot be achieved on a screen. I have already recommended it to the local primary school. I’ve recommended it to all my adult friends. My family. Everyone I know. I think I should stand in the middle of Leeds and shout it out for everyone to hear. Clearly, I am a fan. Being right in the midst of that post-graduation ‘nothingness’ moment, I can honestly say that reading Rise of the Shadow Stealers has given me so much creative drive. It’s the kind of fiction that you read that makes you long to be a writer and, in my opinion, that is the best kind of fiction. I have already gushed about being given these books to review but I am so grateful that I have had the chance to read it. I can’t wait to read the next one! It is a book that pushes the imagination and makes you want to step into this magical world (in true The Pagemaster style). Oh, and Mr Ingram-Brown? I really think you should make ‘Noveltwist Cordial’, ‘Epiphany Tea’ and ‘Blank-verse buns’ a thing because they all sound delicious. ~ Dani McDowall,

I should probably start off by saying that I never usually read books of this genre, so I was completely unsure what to expect when I started reading it. However I am always willing to give anything a go, so I was still looking forward to reading it. To begin with, I was a little worried that I wasn’t getting into the story; probably mainly because it is such a different genre, and because I’ve been reading books recently with a much higher age demographic. There were elements that I was intrigued by though; characters not remembering anything from their past, and waking up in a place they don’t recognise. The two main characters, Scoop and Fletcher, are students of Blotting’s Academy and discover that they are partners. They set off to find their mentor – the Yarnbard, which is a character that I really liked – and went on an adventure full of twists, turns and dark caves to find the mysterious Storyteller. Although I felt like I wasn’t going to get into the story at the beginning, I quickly became hooked. The amount of plot twists and events happening in every chapter made me not want to put the book down because I wanted to find out what was happening next. The characters and settings were describes in a way that made the images perfectly clear in my mind, so that I had an image of everything I was reading. There was one part that I loved and I could really clearly picture because it reminded me of MMORPG games that I’d played a lot in the past: “She saw a stream of strangely assorted characters heading passed her, away from the village. Some were Academy students dressed in their red tunics, and others were obviously islanders or villagers. There were tradesmen and women: a baker, her apron and cloth-cap covered with flour; a cobbler, half-finished shoes hanging around his neck, and a man carrying an axe.” Towards the end of the book the story took some strange turns and it was great! Some things happened that I didn’t expect at all – and when that happens in a book, I prefer it so much more than the ending being predictable. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book! It’s very easy to read so it’s great if you don’t want something that feels like a slog to get through; the story flows well and the twists and turns will keep you engaged until you turn the last page. My rating: 4 ~ Charlotte, Wonderfully Bookish

This debut from Yorkshire author Daniel Ingram-Brown is a well-paced, absorbing read that will appeal to many adults as much as it does to children. There’s no time wasted easing the reader into this new world: there’s too much going on for a tour of the island. In the opening pages we’re greeted with a dead body, an enigmatic seer and a creepy ritual on the edge of a murky abyss, and the action continues thick and fast as the perky protagonists embark on a journey to the centre of the shadow stealing across the island. On the way they start to learn a little more about themselves, as the book starts to explore issues such as the purpose of a life, identity, and the role of stories in holding out world together. Both the premise and the writing are reminiscent of other fantasy authors such as Terry Pratchett and in particular, Jasper Fforde, although this is certainly unique and interesting enough to stand firmly on its own two feet. Confident pre-teen readers will enjoy it as an intriguing adventure story, while older readers will enjoy reading between the lines for a more philosophical experience. ~ Isobel Jokl, Dig Yorkshire

I really enjoyed reading this book. I think those who enjoy the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books will greatly enjoy this magical adventure. Fletcher and Scoop are loveable heroes you can't help but root for! ~ Lily Greer, NetGalley

I love the world created for this story. Populating the island are many interesting areas such as the Creativity Craters, Puddles of Plot, the Hills of History, the Tall Tale Tree Forest, and the Fable Fish swimming in the bay. I would have liked to learn more about Blotting’s Academy and the training of storybook characters. Aside from the first day and a First Word Welcome where the students learn about the teacher/mentors, the stories they are to find and sometimes be a part of, and which department they’ve been assigned, that is it. From there the story is about Fletcher and Scoop’s adventure. The adventure Fletcher and Scoop are on will help them regain their memories but it will also help the Storyteller have a successful wedding banquet. To attend the banquet, the kids need to wear a robe woven with the silver thread of the Storyteller, but the thread become gold. The entire journey is to find the Golden Feather that will turn the silver thread into a gold thread. The journey itself was confusing at times, though the mini-adventures were wonderful. The writing reminded me of that in a great picture book—the words flow, smooth and easy to read. They are nearly lyrical. The writing is some of the best I have read since becoming a book reviewer five years ago. It was as much fun to read Rise of the Shadow Stealers as it was to read I Hate Picture Books. When the writing is that good, it almost matters none what the story is about, just let me keep enjoying the flow of the words. ~ Suzanne Morris, Kid Lit Reviews

Fletcher and Scoop are some of the most endearing characters that I have met. They fully embrace the clichés common in the Department of Adventures, as well as having their own intricate back-stories to give them a new feel. The entire Fullstop Island is full of delightful clichés, with all the characters fitting into their own departments, and the objects of the world being literary-themed. The Noveltwist, and the Plot-Jacking Spiders were some of my favorite writing-themed elements to this beautifully built world. This thrilling quest is a wonderful read for all fantasy junkies and is a great start to the Firebird Chronicles series! ~ Zyllah, Miss Literati:

After both my children had devoured the book, I finally got to see what all the fuss was about, and I was instantly hooked. Fast paced and gripping, my son compares this to his favourite, Artemis Fowl, whilst my daughter declares it 'a book you can lose yourself in.' ~ Platform Harrogate, Platform Harrogate Magazine

Although aimed at younger readers, I love this book. It's rare that I can't put a book down, but this one had me gripped. Magical and mysterious, I was always genuinely excited to get back to reading it. I've recommended this to adults and teens alike, it's a great piece of writing. Five stars! ~ Lynette Pickering, Amazon

Loved it! Was drawn in immediately. Loved the characters, the humour, the story. Loved the way Full Stop Island came to life. Loved the magic, the drama and of course, the gush bombs. Hard to fault - perhaps I would have like a bit more danger but i am picking holes. Great read. ~ Lynsey Jones, Amazon

This book was a great read. It was like Harry Potter meets CS Lewis! You wanted to keep reading it. I enjoyed it a lot, but also think it would be good for kids - maybe secondary school age and up. Highly recommended! ~ Dave P, Amazon

Rise of the Shadow Stealers is a work of children's literature, but that does not stop it from being enjoyable for an adult audience. It contains a diverse vocabulary that is stimulating for all and ensures that this book will help children develop their reading skills, yet it never loses its accessibility. It is set on the imaginary Fullstop Island, where storybook characters go for training. The story follows Scoop and Fletcher, two Apprentice Adventurers, who wake up with no memories of their life and attempt to discover who they are. It is a tale of good versus evil. Shadow Stealers is well-written and full of positive lessons to empower the reader. One aspect of this book that I found particularly important was the emphasis the author placed upon the character's free will; Scoop and Fletcher are encouraged by their tutors and villagers to go forth and create their own story. I feel this is a positive message which lends itself perfectly to empowering children to be able to make their own life choices. This book will be a positive influencer on self-esteem as well as stimulating to the imagination. The main characters are easily understood whilst readers are introduced to a variety of guiding motivations. Another element I found important was that there is a good representation of female role models, making this book accessible to a wide audience. My favourite character was that of Wisdom, who is ever youthful and care-free. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, young or old. It is a book full of positivity and more books such as this should be written. ~ LittleGoblinsGob, Amazon

This was a wonderful allegory! Along the lines of C.S. Lewis and John Bunyan. It was a fantastic read and I am hoping there will be more from Daniel Ingram-Brown. The story is all about stories. The world that our two unlikely heroes reside in is filled with plots, twists, tales, both fun and scary. I would recommend as a buddy read with a parent for ages under 10. I give it 4 stars. Good Job. ~ Jodi Woody,

This is a well written, highly entertaining book. Whilst aimed at 9-12 I found it read on many levels and could be enjoyed by adults and children alike. The two main protagonists Fletcher and Scoop awaken in the Blotting's Academy with few memories of their lives before and through them you get to learn of the island and its secrets along with the hidden secrets of their own past as the story unfolds. The mythology of the island and its inhabitants, though quite a complicated and a little abstract in concept works well and is written in such a way that it is easy to visualise the story. The chapters are short but draw the reader along the two apprentices' quest with them, often answering many questions whilst revealing others. It has been a while since I enjoyed a book and this is one that I found difficult to put down. I look forward to the second chronicle with anticipation. ~ Mr M Kingshott, Amazon

Sometimes a book is so well written that from the first page you can tell you are in store for a real treat. This is one of those books. The characters and plot are incredibly well rounded and it's hard to believe that this is Daniel's first book. The themes speak to us all and everybody will be able to identify with some of the emotions the story conjures up. Full of drama, intrigue and action, this book is simply a treat. All we await now if the sequel! ~ John Pearce, Amazon

I loved it - I must be a teenager (I'm not!) I'm REALLY hoping that, unlike Rise of the Shadow Stealers, the second book, which is being written now, doesn't take 4 years to make it onto the bookshelves. This book had it all - Magic, Mystery, Joy, Sorrow, goodies, baddies, heartbreak and romance. WARNING the cover is made of glue - I couldn't put it down. ~ Peter Lane, Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book, Ingram-Brown's writing style is more enjoyable than JK Rowling's. Clever plot, numerous characters to get to know, a layered and colourful story, with good use of imagery. Compares favourably with other authors such as Ursula Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea), and even CS Lewis's Narnia stories, both of whose books have spiritual messages, and CS Lewis's also having a Christian theme running through them, though they stand on their own without reading the Christian theme into them, as does Ingram-Brown's Rise of the Shadow Stealers. They are better for having them in, though, and understood. ~ Ian Fraser, Goodreads

When I first set about reading this book I thought I'd be reading a children's book as an adult, but having finished it I realised how wrong I was! The genius of this novel is that it's multi-layered; read as a child and take the simplest of meanings - an adventure yarn where good battles evil. Read as an adult, and you get to explore significant questions about spirituality and philosophy that you thought were reserved for theological tomes! You HAVE to read this novel! It's a cleverly mastered work that will leave you gasping for episode two.... ~ Howard Corrin, Amazon

Each page is action packed so very difficult to put down. Some fantastic descriptive passages and it's also educational. In fact I've already recommended it to young friends who I'm sure will be as enthralled as I was. Very much looking forward to the sequel. ~ Mo Beynon, Goodreads

A very lovely readable book. It grabs you within the first page and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through! The characters are fab and connect really well with the reader. There's adventure, mystery, comedy, theatrics, madness and more as the story develops and there's not a moment of boredom to be had by readers old and young alike. As a child I would have loved this story and as an adult I appreciate it's beauty all the more. Would (and have) recommend this to everyone who enjoys stories! ~ Sarah Morris, Goodreads

If you haven't yet got around to reading 'Rise of the Shadow Stealers' then re-prioritise your time. A great, multi-layered, easily accessible, all age adventure. Brilliantly written with amazing imagination that you can't help but get wrapped up and carried away in. The next book can not come soon enough! This book is a fantastic showcase of a brilliant talent. Original, profound, exciting! More please Mr Brown! ~ Nathan Dring, Goodreads

I've just finished reading "Rise of the Shadow Stealers" and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric book which engages and delights the reader from the start. Scoop and Fletcher are great lead characters, clever, fearless and inquisitive. Their quest is fast paced, breathless and in the tradition of all the best children's literature, a right ripping yarn. When I've been forced to put this book down, I've been itching to get back to it, to find out what happens next. It's clever, imaginative, thought provoking and has one or two unexpected plot twists which both surprised and delighted this reader. ~ Katherine , Goodreads

Every chapter of this book is filled with mystery, adventure and suspense! The journey across Full Stop Island captivates the reader with its quirky characters, dangerous exploits and philosophical reflections. Without doubt, every 11 year old needs a copy, and every parent should borrow it! I'm looking forward to a sequel. ~ Marina Magdalena, Goodreads

This book has everything…danger, magic, mystery, plot twists and stories. The latter is not much of a surprise in a story book but this one is set on Full Stop Island, the place where all story characters are trained, meaning there are stories around every corner. Stories within stories, stories about stories and stories that have long been forgotten. The main characters, Fletcher and Scoop, wake up to find they are apprentice adventurers at Blotting’s Academy where all is not as it should be. The shadows are growing and things are going missing but nobody seems to be taking it seriously. It’s up to Scoop and Fletcher to investigate and find out what is going on. Where are the shadow’s coming from? Who is the story teller? What is the golden feather? Through their adventurers, helped along by their mentor, the Yarnbard, the forever young Lady Wisdom and the dessert-resembling Quill sisters, amongst others, Scoop and Fletcher uncover stories back to the beginning of the island and beyond. Will they complete their quests and make it to Alethea in time or will the dark and dangerous Grizelda put a stop to their adventures? This was the first time in a long time that I haven’t been able to put a book down. When I did have to, I spent the whole time I was away from it thinking about what might happen next. I am looking forward to the next one…get writing Dan! ~ Sian Llewellyn, Goodreads

The Rise of the Shadow Stealers by Daniel Ingram Brown .... This is a book which may be read on many levels. Although it is suggested for 9 - 12 year olds it would be an exciting book to read to younger children as the characters are very graphic and easy to visualise. Many of the inhabitants of Full Stop Island are amusing and extremely entertaining. Some are menacing while others create a pathos that deserve empathy. All the characters could be easily drawn by youngsters because as the book is read aloud they spring vibrantly to life. The book contains pranks and adventures, mystery and magic, valour and callousness. It presents its reader with unknown tasks that must be achieved, codes to decipher and deadlines to meet. For the adult reading aloud, the book gives limitless scope for dramatic interpretations. All in all a wonderful experience. For the 9 - 12 year old the book is challenging and rewarding. Chapters are short and they present the youngster with a multitude of unanswered questions and strange happenings to untangle. They will follow in the footsteps of the young protagonists feeling their qualms, their ups and downs, their sorrows and their joys. Again the book will present them with a well painted picture of the island, its atmosphere and its people and they will soon become embroiled in the "goings on". What will be the ultimate discovery? Only time will tell! This book, however, can be read on a whole different level. For the older reader it poses questions of mortality, of philosophy, of hope. On the surface it appears a tale of strange adventure but it belies ideas of the validity of life itself!! A must read for all. ~ Tina Mary, Amazon

"...a creative masterpiece and completely enthralling throughout...the script itself cleverly weaves together many threads...My greatest applause goes to director and writer, Daniel Ingram-Brown." Review of The Pilgrim's Progress: from this world to another, written by Daniel Ingram-Brown, toured by Pointed Arrow Performance. ~ Rachel Thorpe, BBC website

Rise of the Shadow Stealers is an exciting re-enactment of the age-old conflict between good and evil...Like all the best stories, it can be read on different times there are echoes of C.S.Lewis. Young people and adults alike will be taken up by the tension of what will happen to the Apprentice Adventurers...A thoroughly absorbing read. ~ Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

Daniel Ingram-Brown is a creator of worlds and a creator of wonder. He is a questioner, not an answerer, opening up spaces in the mind where genuine reflection can happen. He entertains, but he is so much more than an entertainer. A poet and theologian of the street, the home and the playground, the wonder Dan creates, invites us to wonder. ~ Simon Hall, Author and social commentator

Daniel Ingram-Brown has an intriguing voice and choice of subject matter and no little skill in the execution. He clearly knows how to turn a sentence, 'does drama' well, and particularly horror (the episode of eating the maggoty apple has stayed with me), he uses a refreshingly large amount of dialogue. He has a lot of stuff in his armoury. ~ Haydn Middleton, Children's Author

Daniel Ingram-Brown has a deep appreciation and understanding of the importance of storytelling and narrative for the transmission and communication of eternal truths, for adults and children alike. In his own writing, he has a real grasp for the way in which the Judaeo-Christian spiritual values, which have played a pivotal role in shaping western society, continue to speak to the contemporary context and social milieu. ~ Rev. Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds

Daniel Ingram-Brown writes with conviction and brings many woven layers together in his stories. He is commited to ensuring that any story is explored to its fullest degree, whilst being understandable and engaging to its audience. Dan brings his love of stories alive in his writing and has much to offer the reader. ~ Beci Jamieson, Arts Development Manager, Doncaster Community Arts (DARTS)

Daniel Ingram-Bown...has the ability to weave people into the otherworlds of myth, prophecy and archetypes. ~ Mike Love, Together for Peace and Leeds Christian Community Trust

Daniel Ingram-Brown
Daniel Ingram-Brown Born in East London, Daniel now lives in Yorkshire, in a house built from the stones of a ruined castle. He lives with his wife, son, and th...
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