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.
I am torn in this book. On the one hand it is a good solid second installment in an interesting steam-punk fantasy filled with magical robots, mythical creatures and a great bad guy. On the other hand some of the same problems I had with the first story are still here. Mr Grim is hard to relate to and our main character Grubb is as well. In fact the best characters are the supporting ones. Warrior Banshies, ninjas, spoilt faries and mad witches. The main character is a boy, but the strong female characters almost steal the story. The novel has an ever expanding cast of characters that collect a bit like the Oddita.
This story can drag a little and was hard for me to finish, which worries me about many of my younger readers. However, once I reached about the half-way mark the action picked up and it was interesting. This story wasn’t a hard read, and it is age appropriate in Lexile level, but it just didn’t grab me.
If someone asked for the second book we will buy it, but series are tricky things. They take up a lot of space on our shelves and unless it is wildly popular we tend not to carry many long running series preferring great stories that stand alone.
Parental Note: while the blood and gore is relatively ‘off screen’ Alistair takes on a bit of a darker role in this novel. He is Grubbs father and role model, but he does not make a very good one. In fact I wonder if Grubb is in more danger from Alastair than our Dark Prince. Some of that is explored, but given how abusive Grubbs childhood was, I kind of want better options for Grubb (and seriously, can he get a different name?)
So here is a book for all of my Middle Grade mystery fans who like a bit of magic in their stories.
The Disappearance of Emily H. Barrie Summy
May 12 2015
This is a Netgalley review, eBook free in exchange for an honest review.
So this is a book I am very conflicted about. On the one hand it is a great middle grade slice of life, girl at new school story. On the other it is a quasi fantasy where our main character has a secret power. The conflict is how she deals with her power and the mean girls in her life. Raine is our thirteen year old main character with the hopeless mother who flits from one man to another leaving Raine to pretty much raise herself. Picking up roots and moving every time the relationship falls apart. The central mystery is about a girl named Emily who went missing from the house Raine and her mother have just moved into. This is a fast paced fun read that stalls in the middle and has a few perplexing logic leaps that require a hearty dose of suspended disbelief. And that is probably my biggest problem. I don’t like bully books where the solution is more bullying. I find it highly suspicious that the solution to the missing girl is what it is. And without spoiling the story, the climatic ending was a bit of a “that’s it?”. If you have a young girl or a boy who is into mysteries with a hint of magic and a heaping helping of danger, this is a great summer read.
Parental note. There is some pretty horrific bullying by the mean girls, and the solution Raine and her friend come up with is downright illegal. It is worth having a discussion with your child since the adults are largely absent in this story. The kids in this story hid the abuse by classmates that tread the line between cruel and criminal, never telling a parent or trusted adult. Raine’ Mom is in need of serious mental health help. The bad guy is just evil. And the story can swing from sparkly light hearted, sometimes funny to soul crushing in an instant.
I just finished a new Junior Fiction book: Tut, The Story of My Immortal Life by P.J. Hoover
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Starscape (September 16, 2014)
Comparisons between Riordan’s Kane chronicles and this book are impossible to avoid and in fact it was my Son’s adoration of the Riodan books that made me pick this up. It is the start of a new series by P.J. Hoover, and does take some pointers from Riodan. It also has a weird romance angle between a 3000 year old Tut and a young girl that I am not fond of. But since Tut acts like a thirteen year old and the girl Tia is not quite what she looks like I will let it pass for now. So On with the review:
King Tut is alive and well, but he has a problem. He was cursed when he was thirteen and has been stuck as a thirteen year old for nearly three thousand years. A boy king could get tired of repeating the eighth grade endlessly. Though to be fair he did sort of loose a bet to Gilgamesh…(yes That Gilgamesh). And there are his crazy Gods and Goddesses (Auntie Isis is particularly nutty always trying to embalm people). Mix in Tut’s curse, family murder, and the inability to die and Tut has a lot to deal with. If that was not enough, he has his eighth grade history paper on strangely enough King Tut himself.
This is a first book in a series and it does end on a cliffhanger with many unanswered questions which I do not like in a junior fiction. I am intrigued enough to want to read the second in the series, but I am not sure children who have not read a lot of ancient mythology are going to get the point of Shabti, the Book of the Dead, Gilgamesh, Hapi, and many of the other things listed in the story. Why use Gilgamesh at all? And the Shabti are straight out of Toy Story even talking like the green soldiers. Some of the characters like Set have been used as the bad guys in other books. And I am perplexed with why Tut is frozen at thirteen since autopsies of his mummy say he died closer to nineteen. In her notes at the end of the book Ms. Hoover states “that is a mystery for another book” meh.
If your child is not irritated with reading series that you have to wait for a year to read the next book, and they are into ancient mythology of all kinds, they will probably like this. The juvenile actions of Tut are going to appeal more to boys than girls as Tia’s character is hardly present in this book.