When I read Seven Sorcerers, by Caro King, last year (my review), my only complaint was that the book ended. It had great world building, great characters, and was engrossing as all get out. Then it stopped. So I was very happy to plunge into Shadow Spell, its sequel (Aladdin, May 1, 2012, upper mg).
And I was not disappointed (which is a lovely thing). Everything I liked about the first book was here too.
I won't go into details about the plot, since that would be spoilery for the first book, and I don't think enough people have read that one for me to feel comfortable doing that! In a nutshell, it's about a girl (Nin) who goes to a magical land and defeats an evil enemy. This might not sound that Original, but it actually is twisty enough, and full of enough imaginative details, that King pulls it off. It also includes my favorite fictional gargoyle of all time.
Shadow Spell is something of a mystery--Nin has to figure out a twist from the past in order to bring about the defeat of the bad guy. And the way the defeat takes place is very satisfying indeed. There's luck involved, and lots of perseverance needed, and then in the end it's not a Magical Showdown of good triumphant. Much more interesting than that.
There's some pretty gross violence, that might disturb younger readers (or their parents; I myself, being weak, could have done without one or two little descriptions of yuckiness). But to heck with the kids--I really truly recommend these two books to grown-ups who read middle grade fantasy for their own reading pleasure. I don't think Seven Sorcerers got anywhere near the buzz it deserved, and I think that is a shame.
These were first published in the UK--here's the Amazon UK link for the first book, so you can read all the glowing reviews and see that I'm not alone in loving these! And that's the UK cover for Shadow Spell on the right, which I think is prettier than the US version...and matches the cover of Seven Sorcerers, whose cover didn't get changed in the US.