Tag Archives: magic

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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The Crown’s Fate  on Goodreads

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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.

 

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The Bone Witch on Amazon

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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.

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Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Amazon

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Goodreads

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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

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. June 7, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553524857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price

Part of Series: Witch’s Child (Book #1)

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. Julia is the best thief and spy in Spira City. At 16, she knows every twisted alleyway and escape route it holds. She also has the ability to “be unseen”—not to become invisible, exactly, but to pull herself into gaps in the air. This unusual talent has proven dead useful in her line of work, which has been her lot ever since her mother was drowned as a witch (magic and folklore are illegal in the kingdom of Frayne). Home is now with her brother and the ragtag gang that contracts her jobs. This is how Julia has ended up posing as a maid in the house of Mrs. Och, but her snooping assignment is becoming more dangerous by the day. Strange meetings, secretive guests, and frightening sounds inhabit the house’s walls, while outside, a serial killer is on the loose. Egan nimbly builds a fantasy world resembling early modern Europe—with a class system, scourge survivors, prescribed religion, and witch hunts—and laces it with original mythologies to fuel the story’s action. Readers will find themselves immediately immersed in the narrative and invested in the fate of Julia, who is both feisty and flawed. There is a richness to this inaugural volume of the Witch’s Child trilogy, and readers will be hard pressed to put it down.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
Julia is a thief in Spira City, sent by a mysterious employer to gather information from the wealthy Mrs. Och’s house. Though Julia has never understood her ability to turn almost invisible, that talent helps her spy and steal. Posing as a housemaid, Julia learns that Mrs. Och is defying the fervidly anti-magic government by secretly smuggling well-connected witches to safety. (Less-fortunate witches are drowned in public “Cleansings,” as Julia’s mother was years before.) Mrs. Och’s newest houseguests are a beautiful witch and her toddler son — a child with powers that interested parties would kill to claim. Julia is drawn into a battle encompassing her targets, a corrupt politician, and the terrifying forces behind her assignment. While this fantasy’s world-building, politics, and magical history are indeed interesting, these are surpassed by the daring criminal escapades and by Julia’s internal conflicts. Julia’s self-made family of thieves (including brother Dek and love-interest Wyn) is a likable crew that works together, even through the personal betrayals that add emotional complexity to the novel. The villains, too, are attractive in their wickedness. Following Julia and her comrades makes for a tricky, frightening, relentlessly exciting adventure colored with moral ambiguity and magical intrigue. The fast-paced plot concludes nicely, but with plenty of questions left open for further installments in the series. sarah berman

About the Author

My superpowers: high-kicking, list-making, simultaneously holding two opposing opinions

My weaknesses: fear of flying, excessive list-making, lame-ass mortality

My allies: The Canadian Mounties, my made-for-walking-in black boots, Mick, the English Language

My mission: the coexistence of ambivalence and joy.

Her website is www.catherineegan.com.

Around the Web

Julia Vanishes on Amazon

Julia Vanishes on Goodreads

Julia Vanishes on JLG

Julia Vanishes Publisher Page

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. April  26, 2016. Scholastic, 448 p. ISBN: 9780545424981.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore

Part of Series: The Raven Cycle

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Here it is—the final volume in the Raven Cycle—and it is, simply, a marvel, the strongest and most spacious of the four volumes. This installment finds the world of the Raven Boys (Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah) and their best friend Blue in considerable and dangerous disarray. As strange, increasingly sinister things begin happening in Henrietta and the magic forest of Cabeswater, the search for sleeping king Owen Glendower becomes more imperative, as it becomes apparent that something wicked this way comes. To say more here would be to rob readers of the joy of discovering the book’s many secrets, twists, and surprises. Instead, let’s observe that if writing a book is taking readers’ minds for a walk, Stiefvater never makes a false step. Everything is exactly right: the writing is gorgeous, the characters are brilliantly realized, the compelling plot arises organically from them, the mounting danger and suspense leaves the reader breathless, and the presence of evil is palpable. Best of all, Stiefvater has created a richly imagined, complete world that readers can, with a sense of wonder, inhabit, experiencing viscerally the magic with which it is suffused and falling in love with its unforgettable characters. Like this world she has created, Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle is magic, plain and simple.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2016)
A group of Virginia teenagers finally finds a long-buried Welsh king in this conclusion to the four-part Raven Cycle. A demon has infected the magical forest, Cabeswater, killing Ronan’s mother, Aurora, and threatening Ronan’s brother, Matthew, as well as Ronan and maybe the whole world–Gansey knows what he has to do. It’s all been foretold, and readers have been waiting for it since Blue saw him on the corpse road in quartet opener The Raven Boys (2012). For three out of four novels, Stiefvater combined extraordinary magic and visceral reality in a way that felt entirely true. Here, the magic scatters in all directions, and too little of it makes sense. The characters–Ronan, Gansey, long-dead Noah, Blue Sargent, newcomer Henry, and especially Adam–are as multidimensional and fully realized as ever; Ronan and Adam’s budding romance is beautifully told. The writing sings–each sentence, each paragraph marvelously wrought. Yet at the point where the story needs to make the most sense, it makes the least, prophecy and magics piling up on one another in a chaotic, anticlimactic climax. The ending feels trivial, almost mocking the seriousness of the rest of the quartet. Stiefvater couldn’t write a bad book, and this isn’t one, but it is a disappointment after years of glorious buildup. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Her website is www.maggiestiefvater.com.

Teacher Resources

The Raven Cycle Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Raven King on Amazon

The Raven King on Goodreads

The Raven King on JLG

The Raven King Publisher Page

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron. February  14, 2017. Entangled: Teen, 400 p. ISBN: 9781633755925.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run―a betrayal and a death sentence.

Part of Series: The Ryogan Chronicles (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
Cameron (Assassins: Nemesis, 2017, etc.) tells a YA fantasy tale about a “nyshin”—a warrior, mage, and hunter—on a desert island rife with danger. Khya is no stranger to hardship. Life on the island of Shiara is inhospitable at best, and as a nyshin, burdens fall especially heavily on her. Nevertheless, she’s always been able to depend on her clan and the fact that everyone in it works for the good of the many. But everything changes when they threaten to take from her the one thing she can’t give up: her brother, Yorri. Her worries are understandable as her sibling approaches a rite of passage that will determine the course of his life, but the greatest dangers facing her are ones that she can’t even imagine. As storms rage across the island and enemies probe the clan’s borders, a conspiracy begins to unfold that will test everything Khya has ever known. Not knowing whom to trust, she must rely on strange bedfellows: Sanii, a member of the servant class and the love of Yorri’s life; and Tessen, Khya’s sometime-friend, sometime-archrival, and possibly something more. But most of all, she must depend on herself, casting aside faith, duty, and honor for the strength of love and family. Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This rare gem of a book has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife. A fresh, original series starter bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth.

About the Author

After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years studying psychology and creative writing, basically getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Now, she’s the author of several series for young adults. She’s also a reader, asexuality advocate, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse who loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.

Her website is www.byericacameron.com.

Around the Web

Island of Exiles on Amazon

Island of Exiles on Goodreads

Island of Exiles on JLG

Island of Exile Publisher Page

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix. February 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 384 p. ISBN: 9781338052084.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

The Last Thing She Needs Is a Prince.

The First Thing She Needs Is Some Magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Trailer

Sneak Peek

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-10. Princess Anya is in a bind. Her stepstepfather Duke Rikard (who happens to be an evil sorcerer) is plotting to steal the crown, her older sister’s suitor has been transformed into a frog, and Anya has promised to help turn him back into a prince—but she’s fresh out of the transmogrification-reversal lip balm she needs for the job. There’s nothing for it but to embark on a quest to gather the hard-to-come-by lip balm ingredients and hopefully devise a way to stop the duke while she’s at it. Anya is accompanied by Ardent, an eager (talking) royal dog, and it isn’t long before their journey takes on a more significant purpose. Playing on fairy tale tropes and conventions, Nix (Newt’s Emerald, 2015) delivers a delightful adventure stuffed with absurdity, magic, and a spirited young heroine. Beneath these entertaining trappings lies a heartfelt message of justice and fair treatment for all. As for Anya, there’s always room for leading ladies like her: “I don’t expect to need rescuing. I’m not that kind of princess.”

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Princess Anya goes questing to fulfill a promise to her sister.When Princess Anya’s stepstepfather, evil Duke Rikard, transforms her older sister’s latest love into a frog, the self-possessed white royal promises to transform him back. Alas, the Transmorgification Reversal Lip Balm is depleted in kissing the wrong frog, and Anya is forced on a dual quest to escape death by Duke Rikard and gather supplies for more balm. The third-person narration chronicles the high jinks that ensue as Anya sets off with her faithful talking canine companion, Ardent, and the transformed prince. Anya and company fall in with various intriguing characters: Bert (short for Roberta), the strong, capable, dark-skinned leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers (think Robin Hood), who challenges Anya to examine her princess privilege; the powerful and also dark-skinned and female Good Wizard; and the Wizard’s teacher, who’s both Merlin and Snow White (just one way Nix cleverly and hilariously turns fairy-tale tropes upside-down); as well as the Seven Dwarves. The characters are so enjoyable readers are sure to miss them when the quest (and book) ends. Refreshingly, there’s no romance plot here, and just as refreshingly, the two dark-skinned women are both beautiful and benevolent. Nix takes inspiration from classics and improves on them: he doesn’t fall into negative tropes and masterfully infuses the weight of first recognizing one’s privilege with humor. Great fun with heart. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

About the Author

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing ‘Hail the Conquering Hero Comes’ or possibly ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher’s sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.  His website is www.garthnix.com.

Around the Web

Frogkisser! on Amazon

Frogkisser! on Goodreads

Frogkisser! on JLG

Frogkisser! Publisher Page