I am going to recommend this series, with a Big Caveat. It starts out as a Middle Grade series with a female lead character and lots of magic in a story reminiscent of Harry Potter meets Percy Jackson. It ends as more of a Teen Fiction series complete with love triangle and DRAMA. So without spoiling anything, travel with Sophie a changeling who thinks she knows about her past but in fact she is a lost child from an Elvin world where cuts are treated with potions, and the Elves are lead by a group of Councilors from the nobility, and all manner of magical creatures live in harmony with each other.
Sophie meets an intriguing cast of characters from Dax, son of a potions master. Keefe a more likable son of a Malfoy like noble. Fitz son of yet another noble and fellow Telepath. And many other characters who are fun and assist Sophie on her journey to discover the purpose of her existence. There is pin trading, magic dodgeball, smelly foods, and troll poetry. Mystery, secret messages, magic mirrors, and lots of hospital visits.
I really liked book one, there is nothing objectionable or too problematic for middle grade readers. Its in the subsequent slide into love triangle and Sophie’s lack of growth into a strong capable heroine that gives me pause. Its a fun series, but Sophie is a bit of a Mary Sue when it comes to powers (Oh no one has ever ‘insert magic ability/talent/skill’ here) but she never grows beyond the wilting, panic filled young girl we see in the first novel.
By Allen Dean Foster
Age Range: 9 – 15 years
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween (February 16, 2016)
It came to my attention recently that my post about this fantastic new upper middle grade-young adult fantasy fiction book had not been received. To which I apologize! Both the head librarian and I agree that more books using great vocabulary, enchanting stories, and frankly a lack of romance need to be written. This marvelously imaginative tale written by a perennial favorite science fiction / fantasy author of mine showed up about two months ago on Netgalley. I was excited to read it, and I sat in our school chortling at clever turns of phrase, and fun action that managed to capture a fantastical quest but maintain a youthful exuberance I find lacking in a lot of this genre. I mean the kissing frog scene, or the snack cart where you tell the owner what you Wish to eat… Fantastic 🙂
Our heroes are a group of siblings three 12 year old young ladies, N/ice, Rose, and Amber, who are mostly here, and one 16 year old brother Simwan who mostly wishes he wasn’t. They have to use their Magic to recover the Truth that a malevolent Rat stole and took to New York. With them is their guardian/advisor, and overall funny mascot Pithfwid the cat, and assorted other non Ordinary creatures who help or hinder along the way. This is not a terribly deep or epic adventure, but it is a fun romp with a magical family with a backdrop of Ordinary people and Magic (non Ords) set in New England and New York.
I thought this was a wonderful short filled with funny characters with baffling to pronounce names. It isn’t a hard read, but it is one that most of the target age is going to enjoy. The best part is it is not a gender specific tale. The three sisters do tend to run together in my mind (apart from the sometimes here N/Ice) but I loved Simwan’ love hate relationship and fierce protective instinct for his sisters. In short I think our students would love this.
Kingfisher By Patricia McKillip, Hardcover: 352 pages
I have to admit, this wasn’t my favorite book by one of my favorite authors by a long shot. More like a series of vignettes with a loose thread that is frayed and often lost in what I guess was supposed to be a grand tapestry story interweaving several main characters together.
First let me back up a moment. I detest multiple perspective stories. I like to grab onto a character and experience their journey without the hither and yon that happens when you split a book into parts to follow vastly different characters with different paths, even if they all end up at the same location. I dislike following multiple characters even more if it is a first book and the author cloaks most of the story in weird foggy descriptions and perplexing “just answer one question for me please” kind of word games. I’m also not a fan of food journeys. So why am I bothering to review this at all? Because this is a fascinating if sometimes overwhelmingly frustrating book to read.
This is set in a sometime alternate future where cars are common on the coast of a blend between England and New England, but people live in a mystical faded glory of King Arthur. Where knights still take on quests, though they are just as likely to be riding motorbikes and inside limos as horses. Where armor and silk jackets, werewolves, and foggy enchantments lay heavy. And ancient Gods and the fey still wander across the land.
We follow three, sometimes more people on a Kingfisher quest. To find a cauldron, or holy grail, or fountain of knowledge that has been lost in time and just might be found in a small coastal town filled with silences and questions. Follow a sorceress’ son, a bastard prince, a daughter of a wolf, and many others as they follow their hearts (and stomachs) on this modern retelling of King Arthur and his quest for the holy grail.
Here’s the problem. I Love CS Friedman. One of my all time favorite science fiction and dark fantasy writers. Not dark fantasy as in sparkly vampires, love triangles, or secret desires. Dark fantasy about demons that eat children, and magicians that use blood magic. And she does fantastic global politicking bad guys who deal in shades of grey.
This is the second in a series that has elements of “when Darkness Falls” and a bit of a new trend in alternate worlds and alternate reality. I liked book one a lot. It had action, and story progression. This story is well written, but the story treads water. I do not like the trend of dragging out a story to enhance book sales, but I guess as long as publishers are willing to sell books and we keep buying them it will be a tend that doesn’t go away soon.
We start back on our Earth (Terra Colonna, one moon, iPod, kindle, tech obsessed) and our cast of characters gets a little trimming. Jessica needs to fix her Mom and the only ones who can are Flesh carvers (their gift is molding bodies). So back to Morgana and her web of Seers on Virginia Prime (magic using, guilds and magic tech that doesn’t value untalented people.) But the only other person she takes is a newly found Rita still sporting a fantastic collection of bruises from the Gate explosion.
The action hops and stutters from dream to reality and the only thread that connects them is Jessica’s dreaming. I love that this is not a love triangle teen fiction. I love that the politics is trademark Friedman with betrayals, layers, and games…in other words smart and not basic. What I didn’t like is that I felt the book felt more like a short novella, or several chapters rather than a complete novel. Will I read the next one? Yes. If you liked book one, definitely read this, but maybe wait until book three comes out so the set up of this story can pan out in the next.
For this age range, not much. There is graphic torture death of a secondary character. And some nasty descriptions of death of animals and other kids. However, this is a teen fiction and not as bad as many books out there.