Tag Archives: magic

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

Around the Web

Stranger Things Have Happened on Amazon

Stranger Things Have Happened on Goodreads

Stranger Things Have Happened on JLG

Stranger Things Have Happened Publisher Page

Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis

Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis. July 11, 2017. First Second,  208 p. ISBN: 9781626727434.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

All the sensible hogfolk in Pigdom Plains know that if pigs were meant to fly, they’d have been born with wings―but there’s no convincing Lily Leanchops. The daughter of renowned inventor Hercules Fatchops, Lily has watched her father’s flying machines fail time and time again. Working in secret, Lily is trying to build what her father couldn’t: an aircraft that actually works. And of course, she’s following his example and employing scientific principals alone―not magic. (Well, a protection spell or two doesn’t count, right?)

Lily’s secret project takes on a new sense of urgency when a mysterious enemy emerges from beyond the mountains. The Warthogs are coming, and they’re piloting flying machines powered by dangerous magic spells. To save Pigdom Plains, Lily must take to the skies in her own experimental aircraft―and there’s no time for a test run.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-10. Lily Leanchops, daughter of a famous inventor, has built an aircraft using only her own mechanical skills; no magic needed. But when warthog flying machines begin dive bombing the peaceful Pigdom Plains, Lily must look deep into her father’s past to find out who gave the warthogs their newfound knowledge. A 1920s-like setting combines with anthropomorphic, porcine characters and a touch of unusual magic for a unique tale of feminism, desperation, and scientific endeavor. Though Abadzis could have played for laughs, he instead chooses to give his story a serious tone, which will draw readers in. Dye’s art strikes a good balance between cartoonish—after all, these are pigs!—and serious, using a lot of detail to illustrate the settings, the aerial battles, and the emotions of the characters. His muted colors fit the apparent time period, adding gravity to an already thoughtful story. Lily’s frustration at being subject to limitations due to her gender will resonate with teen readers, as will her determination to show off her skills while helping her people.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
Can teen pig Lily realize her dream to fly with the power of science?Lily’s engineer father, Professor Fatchops, has long been working on powered flight, but the government has other priorities. Lily and her younger cousin Archie secretly take up the task of creating a plane that doesn’t need magic to stay aloft. Just as she’s one model away from success, warthogs from the wilds west of the mountains attack in aircraft. With a few tweaks, Lily has a working plane ready to answer the warthogs’ next attack. Her actions are greeted with acclaim, but when her secret’s revealed, her father’s angry outburst sends Lily on another mission…to try to reason with the warthogs. What she finds over the mountains is a magical surprise—and a terrifying threat on both physical and supernatural fronts. Abadzis sets his piggie parable in a steampunk-y world that looks a lot like early-20th-century America at its outset. Experienced readers will easily predict the tale’s trajectory, as it follows in the trotters of fantasy comics past, which means it also acts as a nice primer for middle graders just starting out in the genre. Dye’s colorful artwork fleshes out both the anthropomorphic pigs, clothing them in period garb that’s filled out with very humanlike physiques, and their world, which expands impressively once Lily reaches the dominion of the warthogs. Lily’s fans will look forward to the sequel set up at the close. (Graphic fantasy. 9-14)

About the Author

Nick Abadzis was born in Sweden to Greek and English parents and was brought up in Switzerland and England. He is a writer and artist who likes comics (which means these days he seems to be known as a “graphic novelist”). His work for both adults and children has been published in many countries across the world.

He also works as an editorial consultant and has helped set up several best-selling and innovative children’s magazines, including most recently, The DFC for David Fickling Books, the first British children’s comic to feature original characters in nearly a quarter of a century. His storytelling contribution, Cora’s Breakfast, was featured in The Guardian. His work has also appeared in The Times, The Independent on Sunday, TimeOut, Radio Times and various other BBC publications and websites. Other clients have included Eaglemoss Publications, HarperCollins, Harcourt Education, Scholastic, Orchard Books, DC Comics, Marvel Comics and 2000AD. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

His website is www.nickabadzis.com

Around the Web

Pigs Might Fly on Amazon

Pigs Might Fly  on Goodreads

Pigs Might Fly on JLG

Pigs Might Fly Publisher Page

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon. September 27, 2016. Month9Books, 263 p. ISBN: 9781944816926.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Skybright is plunged into the terrifying Underworld where demons are bred, while Stone, stripped of his immortal status, must find a way to close hell’s breach before more mortals die. Meanwhile, Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, is now wed to the strange and brutish Master Bei, and she finds herself trapped inside an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, Zhen Ni worries that Master Bei is not all he seems. As Skybright begins the dangerous work of freeing Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, nothing can prepare them for an encounter so dark that it threatens to overtake their very beings

Sequel to: Serpentine

Part of series: Serpentine (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Gore

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2016)
This thrilling sequel to Pon’s Serpentine (2015) begins soon after the Great Battle between mortals and demons, as Skybright and her compatriots struggle with the fallout and face the looming threat of a new breach to the underworld. Vivid sensory descriptions make the Chinese-inflected fantasy kingdom of Xia an immersive world. The mortal realm, the heavens, and the underworld are at once enchanting and terrifying, and at the story’s core are dynamic characters who resist confinement to archetypes. Torn away from her mortal life, Skybright grows to accept her nature as a serpent demon without rejecting her love for her friends. Zhen Ni, meanwhile, displays extraordinary cunning as she navigates her new duties as a wife while uncovering her husband’s dark plans. Kai Sen’s fierce determination to save Skybright and break the covenant makes him shed his dreamer personality to hone his magic. Stone, immortal intermediary to the gods, learns to respect and admire the mortals as he witnesses the strength of their will. The narration unfolds through their four points of view, shifting perspectives at key scenes rather than chapter by chapter. The resulting dramatic irony tests the characters’ integrity and their faith in one another. Still, they are impressively wise and compassionate, acting, when pressed, out of loyalty rather than bitterness. A brilliant second act that can be read alone. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

School Library Journal Xpress (November 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-This sequel to Serpentine begins nine days after the first volume’s conclusion. Skybright is forced to give up her life and follow Stone in order to save those she loves, and has no time to adjust. She is taken into the Underworld, where demons roam; thrown into portals to other realms; and summoned to the land of the gods. She goes through all of this only to learn that Stone has been stripped of most of his powers, the gateway to hell still needs to be closed, and if they fail, Stone will die. Skybright’s friends are not faring much better. Zhen Ni is made to marry the richest man of the land and quickly becomes concerned that he is not what he seems. Kai Sen is learning magic so that he may save Skybright from Stone. To survive, these characters from very different walks of life will need to learn to work together as a team. Pon excels at describing each scene so vividly that readers can truly picture the protagonist’s surroundings. A story of friendship, love, and duty that fantasy readers will relate to and enjoy. VERDICT Fans will love this sequel just as much as (or even more than) the first. Purchase where the first installment and rich fantasy are popular.-Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

About the Author

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent duology Serpentine and Sacrifice (Month9Books) were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. WANT (Simon Pulse), also a Junior Library Guild selection, is a near-future thriller set in Taipei. RUSE, the sequel, is slated for spring 2019. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.

Her website is cindypon.com.

Around the Web

Sacrifice on Amazon

Sacrifice on Goodreads

Sacrifice on JLG

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker. April 11, 2017. Little, Brown, and Company, 408 p. ISBN: 9780316348560.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 920.

Honorine’s life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….

Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. In this adventure of the galactic variety, Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family. And according to the Mapmaker, a strident and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia placed her in his home to protect her from unseen powers that literally light up the night sky. One night, Honorine’s life drastically changes when she stumbles upon Mordants—constellations come to life—and is reunited with the only person she’s ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son, Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be on the wrong side of the epic battle above, and Honorine is discovering truths about her family that leave her in an extremely sticky situation. Infused with references to constellations and Greek mythological creatures, and stocked with ships that sail through the sky and civilizations succumbing to power and greed over and over again, the invigorating plot ultimately leaves Honorine with only one choice to make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A debut middle-grade adventure involving constellations that come to life, airships, friendships, revenge, and the fight for survival.In the years just before the turn of the 20th century, Honorine—a white girl with gray eyes and a knack for artifacts and machinery—has lived on the Vidalia Estate for as long as she remembers. For the first years her best friend and playmate was Francis Vidalia, but now he’s in school and her days are filled with household chores. When strangers come looking for a book, her world is turned on its head. Honorine is swept up into a world where living constellations—here known as Mordant—are in a fight for their very survival. Before the book is over Honorine will have been on a fantastical flying island that is really a ship; met the scheming white Capt. Nautilus Olyphant and seen the ingenious device with which he has been capturing the Mordant; dealt with the mysterious and somewhat sinister Mapmaker; found out who her parents are; seen monsters emerge from Hades; and made important decisions involving friendship, family, and loyalty. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the setting original. Though there are some holes in the story, such as exactly what motivates Nautilus, the breakneck pace will not give readers time to ponder such questions. And they probably won’t mind a bit. Readers enjoying a mix of fantasy, adventure, and a clever heroine will fall for this one. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Lindsey Becker writes middle grade fiction about ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, and daring children who love adventure and magic. The Star Thief is her debut novel.

Her website is http://literarylilycate.blogspot.com/

Around the Web

The Star Thief on Amazon

The Star Thief on Goodreads

The Star Thief  on JLG

The Star Thief  Publisher Page

The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick

The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick. MArch 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781512499940.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 790.

Danny Woo has just escaped from the jaws of death. But he’s still haunted by the suspicious deaths of his parents, who were the star performers in a radical traveling circus, the Mysterium. When he discovers that the Mysterium is re-forming in Barcelona without him he’s devastated. But after learning that the Mysterium’s enemies may be active in Barcelona, he rushes to warn his friends.

Sequel to: Black Dragon

Part of series: Mysterium (BOOK 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. After numerous close calls in The Black Dragon (2016), Daniel Woo is still trying to uncover the truth behind his parents’ deaths. What’s more, the Forty-Nine, a murderous criminal group, seems to be targeting members of his old circus troupe, the Mysterium. Danny gives his aunt the slip to rejoin the recently reformed troupe in Barcelona, feeling angry and betrayed that no one told him they were mounting a new show—not even his close friends Zamora and Sing Sing. Tensions rise as Danny digs for information about his parents’ final days, and trouble dogs his every step. Meanwhile, a woman in a green coat is spotted at the scene of several dangerous accidents, and Danny is sure she’s involved in the circus’ streak of bad luck. Sedgwick keeps the pages turning with nonstop action; daring circus stunts; light mystery; and an interesting, multiethnic cast of characters. An abrupt ending signals more high-stakes adventures for Danny Woo and the Mysterium.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Following the events of series opener The Black Dragon (2016), 12-year-old Chinese-English orphan Danny Woo is once again running for his life, but this time he is not the only one in danger.When the magical traveling circus, the Mysterium, decides to reopen, Danny fears that there is a traitor among the performers. He travels from Hong Kong to Barcelona to warn them, but once there he discovers that the stakes are much higher than he imagined. Even his godfather, Major Zamora, cannot protect him when a hired assassin begins playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Danny will need the skills he learned from his circus-performer parents as well as the street smarts he has acquired since a mysterious explosion forced him from his boarding school and into a dangerous game he does not yet understand. This fast-paced mystery is packed with exotic locations, a multicultural cast, code-breaking, high-speed chases, and masterful magic tricks. Readers unfamiliar with the series will have a challenge initially, but the payoff is there. At times cohesion and clarity are sacrificed for intensity and drama, but the effect is pure heart-stopping adventure. And while Danny’s sleight-of-hand and acrobatic ability give him an edge, his logic, his loyalty, and his determination are what will ultimately serve him best. Chaos barely contained makes for a thrilling read. (Adventure. 8-11)

About the Author

Born in rural East Kent in 1966 Julian Sedgwick resolved to become a writer at an early age. He and his brother (writer Marcus Sedgwick) relied on their imaginations, and each other, to entertain themselves – inspired by their father’s love of cinema, theatre and storytelling.

Julian took a long detour whilst working out what and how to write – via a degree and a half at Cambridge University reading Oriental Studies and Philosophy, dying his hair various ill-advised colours, working as a bookseller, painter, therapist and researcher for film and TV – before moving into screenplay development and writing.

A lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan has influenced much of his work, as has his fascination with performance, street art and circus.

Julian lives near Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his wife and two sons, waiting impatiently for it to get cold enough to go Fen skating.

Her website is http://www.juliansedgwick.co.uk.

Around the Web

The Palace of Memory on Amazon

The Palace of Memory on Goodreads

The Palace of Memory on JLG

The Palace of Memory Publisher Page

The Last Spell by J.A. White

The Last Spell by J.A. White. April 4, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 504 p. ISBN: 9780062381392.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 750.

The spellbinding conclusion to the critically acclaimed Thickety series. In The Thickety #4: The Last Spell, Kara and her brother Taff must find the hidden pieces of Princess Evangeline’s grimoire to defeat Rygoth and her army of witches in one last good versus evil battle.

Kara and Taff have discovered that the Spider Queen is searching for Princess Evangeline’s grimoire, the Vukera. Legends say that any witch who wields its dangerous magic would be indestructible. Kara and Taff have to stop the Spider Queen from finding the ancient weapon—and destroying everything.

They will travel through time with an old enemy, come face-to-face with the creatures that guard the grimoire’s pages, and unravel a king’s dangerous secret, before one final battle against the Spider Queen. But can Kara save the people she loves and cast a spell that could change magic forever?

Sequel to: Well of Witches

Part of series: The Thickety (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Kara is more powerful than ever, but Rygoth, too, has made steady progress: she has one of the four pieces of the Vulkera, an incredibly powerful grimoire that could make her unstoppable. Kara and Taff follow clues all over the kingdoms of the world to find the remaining pieces, but Rygoth is at their heels at every turn. White’s fanciful world building is as rich as ever, though his characters travel so much that many intriguing locations get short shrift, and some key explanations are glossed over. Still, the mechanics of magic in White’s world are fascinating, and series fans will surely be satisfied by this empowering final installment.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
This long-anticipated finale to the Thickety fantasy series will provide readers with as much excitement, monsters, evil characters, and constant change as they need to stay glued to the page.Fans of the series will wonder what disasters befall Kara Westfall and her brother, Taff, in this volume. Long before this chronicle began, the grimoire Vulkera was torn in four parts and dispersed to Sentium’s four regions to prevent its power from falling into malevolent hands. As the siblings travel from the Hourglass Tower to Dolrose Castle and the Museum of Impossible Things, each place yields information; but all throw Kara and Taff into serious danger. Their visit to the museum, for instance, offers a close call from capture by Rygoth as well as a terrifying airborne battle. A huge battle follows on the discovery of the last piece of the Vulkera—and a grand wrapping up of narrative threads creates a satisfying ending. Although some readers new to the series should begin with Volume 1, more-experienced fantasy readers will be able to catch up quite well. Differences in skin color appear to exist in this fantasyland, but Kara and Taff seem to be white. Magic, suspense, and close calls—what could be better? (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

J. A. White lives in New Jersey with his wife, three sons, and a hamster named Ophelia that doesn’t like him very much. When he’s not making up stories, he teaches a bunch of kids how to make up stories (along with math and science and other important stuff). He wishes dragons were real because it would be a much cooler way to get to work.  His website is www.jawhitebooks.com.

 

Around the Web

The Last Spell on Amazon

The Last Spell on Goodreads

The Last Spell on JLG

The Last Spell Publisher Page

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. May 16, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 400 p. ISBN: 9780062422613.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Sequel to: The Crown’s Game

Part of series: The Crown’s Game (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Backstory is always a problem for sequels, and the elaborate 1825 alternative-history Russian setting of this title will be daunting to newcomers. However, fans of The Crown’s Game (2016) will be delighted to see how Skye writes her way out of a mostly dead antihero, a love triangle, and two royal brothers vying to become tsar of all the Russias. As in the first title, inventive feats of magic by sparring enchanters are the highlight; Vika’s control of the elements and Nikolai’s affinity to metal allow for imaginative showdowns of sorcery. Skye weaves in Russian history and culture, such as the Decembrists, Fabergé eggs, the Nutcracker ballet, and Pushkin’s “Bronze Horseman,” along with plenty of culinary and costume details. There’s nonstop action, lots of chapter hooks, comfortably predictable elements of romance, and an empowering message (“Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits”), all of which, despite some stilted writing, will pull readers right along.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
The 1825 Decembrist rebellion is co-opted for the second half of a lavish, Tolstoy-tinged fantasy duology, the sequel to The Crown’s Game (2016).Vika may now be the Russian Imperial Enchanter, but she cannot overcome her resentment against Pasha, the not-yet-crowned tsesarevich, either for forcing the deadly end of the Crown’s Game or for his autocratic commands. Meanwhile, Nikolai’s sacrifice left him trapped in an enchanted dream, seething with jealousy and despair; unwittingly feeding on dark energy frees him into a shadowy almost-life, plotting bloody vengeance against Pasha, who is his half brother. The operatic plot and outsized passions of the first title skated on the edge of melodrama; this follow- up, however, tips over into trite bathos. Neither the tiresome romantic quadrangle among the all-white characters nor the muddled magical system is improved by prose marred with clunky metaphors and a preference to tell rather than show. Vika’s brash willfulness and Pasha’s feckless insecurity fit poorly with their serious responsibilities; while both mature somewhat into their duties, they continue to value personal inclination over the common good. Worse, the narrative permits Nikolai to indulge his selfish petulance and bitter envy even to the gruesome suffering and death of (literally) thousands. Readers may well prefer the bittersweet, ambiguous ending of the first volume to this overly pat conclusion. (Fantasy. 12-18)

About the Author

Evelyn Skye is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Crown’s Game and its sequel, The Crown’s Fate. Evelyn was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies.

Her website is www.evelynskye.com.

Around the Web

The Crown’s Fate on Amazon

The Crown’s Fate  on Goodreads

The Crown’s Fate  on JLG

The Crown’s Fate  Publisher Page

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. March 7, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 411 p. ISBN: 9781492635826.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

Part of series: The Bone Witch

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Tea is a dark asha, a bone witch, capable of wielding death magic. It is a position both necessary and reviled by those around her, for every few years, monstrous daeva created by the False Prince rise and go on a murderous spree unless returned to death by a bone witch. Tea’s story quietly unfurls through recollections told to a traveling bard, as the 17-year-old asha—now an outcast—prepares to wage a war of her own making. The narrative is primarily devoted to world building, which Chupeco fashions through a richly imagined history and culture, reminiscent of traditional Asian cultures, revealed through Tea’s asha training. Those craving action may not appreciate this book’s subtle execution, but patient readers who enjoy immersing themselves in detail will revel in Chupeco’s finely wrought tale. Game of Thrones fans may see shades of Daenerys Targaryen in Tea, as she gathers a daeva army to unleash upon the world. Whether she is in the right remains a question unanswered, but the ending makes it clear her story is only beginning.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
Something of a high-fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, Chupeco’s latest excels in originality. The asha are known for performing, fighting, and magic; beautiful, brown-skinned Tea is taken from her provincial village to Kion to begin training as a dark (in magic) asha when she accidentally raises her dead brother. Chapters detailing young Tea’s early training through her debut as an asha intercut with 17-year-old Tea on a lonely beach raising monsters and planning war, relating her past to a nameless bard. The level of detail is astounding, confusing, but nevertheless fascinating; politics both local (the brief backmatter is a bit of a guide) and magical (the origin tale of the Faceless and heartsglass, introduced in the prologue, finally appears at the three-quarter mark) permeate everything. Multiple characters, including a dead brother and a handsome prince, surround stubborn, headstrong Tea as she finds herself implicated in events she doesn’t understand; the interstitial chapters make it clear that learning more will not make things better. These also slow the pace; they force an artificial sense of urgency in an otherwise slow, sensory journey and hijack the flow of Tea’s adventures. Chupeco is a writer to watch who deserves props for the breadth of her story, but she doesn’t entirely succeed here. A promising premise, a flawed execution, and a sense that the real story won’t develop until Book 2: somehow both exhilarating and disappointing. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

About the Author

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

 

Around the Web

The Bone Witch on Amazon

The Bone Witch on Goodreads

The Bone Witch on JLG

The Bone Witch Publisher Page

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood. March 21, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062402639.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Chantel Goldenrod is the most talented student at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. While others struggle for years to summon a familiar, Chantel summoned hers (a snake named Japheth) at age six. Unfortunately for the more magically minded, Miss Ellicott emphasizes deportment and obedience over the study of spells, potions, and wards. But when Miss Ellicott and the rest of the sorceresses disappear, Chantel must ignore all rules in order to find them. Meanwhile, it’s hard to identify the true enemy. Is it the evil Marauders surrounding Lightning Pass who threaten to attack the city wall? Or the patriarchs and king who hoard the scarce food supply while citizens go hungry? Good thing Chantel has capable companions in her sensible friend Anna, a Marauder boy on the run named Franklin, and a dragon called Lightning. This fantastical adventure is a sheer delight, featuring a smart, kind, and brave heroine. Though the story involves the darkness of people’s hearts when they lust for power, it maintains a playfully humorous and good-natured tone. The king and patriarchs are narratively limited by their selfish behavior, but most of the other significant characters exhibit a realistic mix of strengths and flaws. Recommended for fantasy readers who want a plot on the cozier side, but still with serious consequences.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
Owl’s bowels! Someone’s kidnapped the sorceresses of Lightning Pass!Atop a steep, twisting street above the walled Kingdom sits Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens—Spells, Potions, Wards, Summonings and Deportment Taught to Deserving Surplus Females. Here, spells are second to deportment as the young students train to be proper sorceresses—“shamefast and biddable.” Tall and black, 13-year-old Chantel is the school’s most magical maiden, and she doesn’t give a hoot about deportment; she just wants to practice magic. After Miss Ellicott and the other sorceresses who keep the city safe disappear, Chantel finds that the remaining adults—all men—are useless. The patriarchs want to continue their iron rule over the city, and the king wants to take control away from the patriarchs. With barbaric Marauders from outside the wall banging at the gates, it’s up to Chantel to save the city and its people from destruction from without—and within. Aided by a fire-breathing dragon, a crossbow-wielding boy, and a long-dead queen, Chantel is a force to be reckoned with. The narrative makes fun of the follies of bureaucratic patriarchy, subverting gender roles by reinforcing them, trusting readers to spot the irony. In a hilarious turn, the novel plays with the skin-as-food-color trope: Anna, Chantel’s white best friend, is described as having “skin the color of raw chicken.” Chantel is a magical heroine to be celebrated, deportment notwithstanding. (Fantasy. 8-14)

About the Author

Sage Blackwood lives at the edge of a large forest, with thousands of books and a very old dog, and enjoys carpentry, cooking, and walking in the woods of New York State.

Her website is www.sageblackwood.com.

Around the Web

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Amazon

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Goodreads

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on JLG

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded Publisher Page

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassanadra Clare

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. August 30, 2016. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9780545522311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 740.

Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Sequel to: The Copper Gauntlet

Part of Series: Magisterium

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. This third return to the Magisterium series finds Call, the not-so-evil-after-all reincarnation of a dark overlord, headed back to school with his two best friends Aaron and Tamara. But all, it seems, is not well, as it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Call. The three conduct their own investigation into the would-be murderer, but they’re blocked at every step, and Call knows he can’t trust anyone. Except, of course, for Aaron and Tamara, right? The crew gets a year older with every book (Call is 14 now), and romantic subplots are starting to peek out even as the narrative grows more ominous. This installment is the third in a planned five-book series, and the plot seems to have stalled somewhat; despite uncertain loyalties and ambiguous characters, this lacks the punch of its predecessor, until the dark turn of an ending. Still, that cliff-hanger finale alone should be enough to get readers to sign up for book four.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Book 3 in the Magisterium series continues the escapades of 14-year-olds Call, Tamara, and Aaron as they pursue their Bronze Year studies at the Magisterium.Readers of Books 1 and 2 now know that white Callum Hunt has the soul of Constantine Madden, the deceased Enemy of Death, who had wreaked so much havoc on mages. Also in on the secret are Tamara, of Indian descent, and Aaron, white—Call’s best friends and fellow apprentices at the Magisterium, where they are in their third year of mage-studies. But, Call believes, no one else in the Magisterium knows. Ensuing events, however, seem to indicate that someone wants Call dead. Author-collaborators Black and Clare fail to make this third book as engrossing as the first two. The tension surrounding the question of whom Call can trust—could Aaron be trying to kill him?—never gets off the ground: Call stews improbably and shallowly, while astute readers will have figured out who the culprit is long before. Engrossing adventures abound but, alas, are frequently fueled by flimsy, contrived logic that does neither characters nor readers justice. The narrative repeatedly fills readers in on things that happened in the previous book, which reads as, well, filler, and there’s no significant movement forward plotwise until the ending setup for Book 4. Only unevenly entertaining and suffering from middle-book syndrome. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the Forest, and her new series which begins with The Cruel Prince in January 2018.

She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

 

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

Her website is www.cassandraclare.com.

Teacher Resources

Magisterium  series Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Bronze Key on Amazon

The Bronze Key on Goodreads

The Bronze Key on JLG

The Bronze Key Publisher Page