This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (5/19/24)

Morning all!  Here's what I found this week.

The Reviews

The City Beyond the Stars by Zohra Nabi, at Mark My Words

Dangerous Allies (Forgotten Five #4), by Lisa McMann, at YABookNerd

Finn and Ezra's Bar Mitzvah Time Loop, by Joshua S. Levy, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Fyn Carter and the Agents of Eromlos, by Ian Hunter, at Scope for Imagination and Book Craic

Grimmword: The Witch In The Woods. by Michaelbrent Collings, at fundinmental

The Last Hope School for Magical Delinquents, by Nicki Pau Preto, at Mark My Words

North and the Only One, by Vashti Hardy, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Puzzleheart, by Jenn Reese, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The River Spirit, by Lucy Strange, at Scope for Imagination

Rwendigo Tales, by J. A. Myhre (series review), at Redeemed Reader

The Secret Society of Very Important Post, by Alexandra Page, at Scope for Imagination

Tariq and the Drowning City (The Spiritstone Saga #1), by Sarwat Chadda, at Book Craic

A Whisper of Curses (Park Row Magic Academy #2), by J. Elle, at Mark My Words

Two at Feed Your Fiction Addiction-- Greenwild, by Pari Thomson& Once There Was, by Kiyash Monsef

Authors and Interviews

 Laura Segal Stegman (The Chambered Nautilus, Summer of L.U.C.K. #3), at Teen Librarian Toolbox)

Leah Cypess (Braided, Sisters Ever After series) at From the Mixed Up Files

Sandy Deutscher (The Haunting of Lake Lucy)-- How Writing in Verse Can Improve Your Prose, at Literary Rambles


A Pattern of Roses, by K.M. Peyton, for Timeslip Tuesday

If you, like me, are a Gen X American, you may well have watched in your youth a British tv show called Flambards, about a girl and her horses, WW I, two brothers and her romances with them, etc.  Perhaps you even went looking for the books by K.M. Peyton on which it was based.  And then possibly you were led to other K.M Peyton books...because even libraries in the US had them on their shelves. I think of Peyton as a 1970s/80s author, because that's when I was reading her, but she was publishing into the 20th century, and only died last December.  The RI library system has several of the more recent ones, and of the older ones kept Flambards (1968).  Much of my own vintage K.M. Peyton collection is mine because in a marvelous stroke of luck we moved into our house in 1999 just as the library three houses down was weeding their children's books for the first time in decades...but one K.M. Peyton book it's taken me a while to get ahold of is Pattern of Roses (1972), which I have only now read. And I can easily imagine re-reading it every three years or so....

Tim's wealthy parents have been spending lots of money on his education to make him into a successful adult--good boarding school, where he is prepared for Oxford like a goose being fattened, to be followed by joining his father in the advertising business.  But Tim derails things by getting sick, with what sound like mono, and having to take a break from school in the new house in the country his mother thought she wanted.  The remains of an old house were mostly demolished to make way for the new one, and Tim claims the one little surviving bit as his own room, which his mother doesn't understand (the first of many such no understandings in the story...).  For the first time in years, there is no pressure on Tim, and so when a builder working on the old chimney in Tim's room finds a box full of old drawings hidden away, Tim has the chance to reflect on them at leisure.

Impossibly, inexplicably, the artist, a boy called Tom, starts to become real to Tim.  He knows things about him he couldn't know.   And he wants to know more about Tom, and the girl, Netty, he drew.  He finds Tom's gravestone in the churchyard, showing that Tom died when he was just about Tim's own age back in 1910, and there he meets the vicar's daughter, Rebecca (also dealing with heavy parental expectations), who becomes his companion in both looking for Tom and Netty, and in figuring out what he wants to do with his life.  

The story in the present is interposed with Tom's story in the past (trading school when still a kid for the hard life of a farm laborer, though still finding time to draw). It's not a time travel book, because there's no travelling, but there is time slipping in the connection between the two boys, which is lovely and magical, and a nice counter note to the sadness of Tom's story in the past (wealthy, self-centerdly oblivious Netty is a piece of work, and there is tragedy) and Tim's struggles in the present.  Peyton's descriptions are utterly beautifully vivid, adding to the magic of the story.  And it's great to see how Tim comes into his own.  

Though it is set around 1970, the narrative of teenaged emotional growth is as germane today as it was then.  It would have been a young adult book back then, with its bit of romance and the rebellion against parents (and it's very 1970 YA cover art), but I think the most appreciative audience, then and now, would have been dreamy, imaginative 12-14 year olds.


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (5/12/24)

Hi all!  Here's what I found this week.  Let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Cats of Silver Crescent, by Kaela Noel, at Cracking the Cover and Ms. Yingling Reads

Beast of Skull Rock, by Matt McMann, at YABookNerd

The City Beyond the Stars, by Zohra Nabi, at Bookworm for Kids

Dread Detention, by Jennifer Killick, at Kiss the Book

The Dreamweavers, by G.Z. Schmidt, at International Examiner

Ember Spark and the Thunder of Dragons, by Abi Elphinstone, at Book Craic, Just Imagine, and Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

 Finn and Ezra's Bar Mitzvah Time Loop, by Joshua S. Levy, at Charlotte's Library

The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly, at Susan Uhlig

Gallowgate, by K.R. Alexander, at YA Books Central

A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan, at Pages Unbound 

 The Girl Who Couldn’t Lie, by Radhika Sanghani, at Book Craic

The House at the End of the Sea, by Victoria M. Adams, at Book Craic

Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Ruling the World, by Louie Stowell, at Mark My Words

The No-Brainer's Guide to Decomposition, by Adrianna Cuevas, at Mark My Words

Not Quite a Ghost, by Anne Ursu, at Fuse #8 and Feed Your Fiction Addiction

The Secret Library, by Kekla Magoon, at Cracking the CoverTeen Librarian Toolbox, and Ms. Yingling Reads

The Selkie's Daughter, by Linda Crotta Brennan, at Redeemed Reader

The Sky King (Skyriders 2), by Polly Holyoke, at Mark My Words

Tap at the Window (Shiver Point), by Gabriel Dylan, at Twirling Book Princess

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, at Redeemed Reader

Authors and Interviews

Victoria Williamson (The Pawnshop of Stolen Dream and more) at Valinora Troy

 Kekla Magoon (The Secret Library) at MG Book Village

Other Good Stuff

"7 sizzling books about dragons" at BookTrust


Finn and Ezra's Bar Mitzvah Time Loop, by Joshua S. Levy, for Timeslip Tuesday

Finn and Ezra's Bar Mitzvah Time Loop, by Joshua S. Levy (May 14, 2024, middle grade, Katherine Tegen Books) is a groundhog day type timeslip story that's tremendously fun (which I expected, having found the authors previous books to also be very entertaining).  And yet it's not all fun and games; there's a more thoughtful thread running through it as well.

Ezra's Bar Mitzvah is an ordeal to be endured, what with family tensions, his little sister barfing on his shoes, and the painful struggle to get through all that is required of him.  He's just glad he's reached the end on Sunday afternoon and it's over...when he finds himself back on Friday, having to do it all over again.  And again, unable to figure out how to end the madness.  

When he finds there's another boy in the same venue also caught in an endless Bar Mitzvah loop, he's relieved to have someone to join forces with. Finn has lots of ideas on things they can try to change things enough to make it out.  But efforts to make things perfect don't work, asking for help from Rabbi Neumann doesn't work (although these conversations are thought provoking and I enjoyed them), and they are running out of ideas (but not out of time.  They have lots of that.)

Then they notice that they are sharing the hotel with a convention of physicists, who surely must be able to help figure out how to break a time loop.  And indeed, Dr. London is interested, once they've convinced her (by knowing things they couldn't know, learned in previous iterations) that they are telling the truth.  It's tricky for Dr. London, because she has to keeping starting over and over every Friday, but the boys become skilled at helping her remember.  (I really liked that the scientist who cracks the case is a woman, who's not eccentric or weird but just a good scientist).

To save her notes, she needs gold to build a science cage to keep her data safe from vanishing every Sunday, and with lots of repeated practice, Finn and Ezra carry out a bank heist, and things seem hopeful.  But as they loop, not only are they getting to know each other really well, envious of things each has in his life that the other doesn't, they learn more about the people around them, most importantly, their families.  And what they learn makes them uncertain that they are ready for time to start moving forward again....

 The two boys are clearly defined characters, not just in the externals (Ezra lives in an Orthodox household crowded by siblings, making do but with no safety margin, and Finn is an only child of comfortably off parents, for whom religion is somewhat tangential) but in their personalities--Finn is a mad whirl of idea, and Ezra is a more thoughtful observer).  This difference keeps each time loop feeling fresh for the reader, and Finn's wild ideas keep things fresh(ish) for the kids too, although they had to put in a lot of practice weekends for more complex undertakings, like the bank robbery....

There's a lot of entertainment to be had in the looping, with many days seen in detail, and others, that don't progress the story, tidily recapped.  Some loops have poignant realizations, some have humor and excitement, and it's all good reading, although considerable suspension of disbelief is (not surprisingly) required (I had no trouble suspending mine). The kids have the freedom to waste their time, to savor moments while knowing they aren't going to be lost, to experiment with how what they do affects others. And so when time starts running normally again, they are prepared to live each day as if it will never come back again...which of course it won't.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


this week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (5/5/24)

|Black Hole Cinema Club, by Christopher Edge, at A Cascade of Books
Nothing from me today, because I have been on a reading slump, throwing all my energy after work into the hellscape that is my garden and woods...Let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Day I Fell into a Fairy Tale, by Ben Miller, at Cracking the Cover

Ember Spark and the Thunder of Dragons, by Abi Elphinstone, at Just Imagine

The Fight for the Hidden Realm (Paper Dragons), by Siobhan McDermott, at Ms. Yingling Reads

A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan, at A Library Mama

Gargoyles: Guardians of the Source, by Tamsin Mori, at Valinora Troy

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, by Christopher Edge, at Sarah's Corner  

The Island at the Edge of Night, by Lucy Strange, at Library Girl and Book BoyBook Craic, and Scope for Imagination

The Labyrinth of Lost and Found (The Whisperwicks), by Jordan Lees, at Book Craic

The Mystwick School of Musicraft, by Jessica Khoury, at BookClub (vocal.media)

New Kid On Deck (Pirate Academy #1), by Justin Somper, at Twirling Book Princess

A Rover's Story, by Jasmine Warga, at Bookworm for Kids

The Sky Over Rebecca, by Matthew Fox, at Kiss the Book

Sleeping Spells and Dragon Scales, by Wendy S. Swore, at Kiss the Book

When the Wild Calls, by Nicola Penfold, at Bellis Does Books 

 The Witch in the Woods (Grimmworld 1), by Michaelbrent Collings, at Mark My Words

Wrath of the Rain God (Legendarios #1), by Karla Arenas Valenti and Vanessa Morales, at Cracking the Cover

Authors and Interviews

Jennifer Killick (Dread Wood, Crater Lake) at Sifa Elizabeth Reads  

Nedda Lewers (Daughters of the Lamp), at Fuse #8

Other Good Stuff

New and recommend in the UK, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books  


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/28/24)

 Hi all!  Here's what I found this week; let me know of anything I missed.

The Reviews

Beneath the Swirling Sky, by Carolyn Leiloglou, at Susan Uhlig

The Day I Fell Into a Fairy Tale, by Ben Miller, at YA Books Central

Duet, by Elise Broach, at Dead Houseplants 

The Haunting of Lake Lucy, by Sandy Deutscher Green, at Valinora Troy

The Magician Next Door by Rachel Chivers Khoo, at Family Book Club

Olivia Cole and Legend of the Silver Seed, by Ricky Melamed, at Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub 

Peregrine Quinn and the Cosmic Realm, by Ash Bond, at Book Craic

Puzzleheart, by Jenn Reese, at Charlotte's Library

The Ship in the Garden, by Zetta Elliott, at Charlotte's Library

Things that Go Bumb, by Kathryn Foxfield, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

Tidemagic: The Many Faces of Ista Flit, by Clare Harlow, at  Mark My Words

The Tower Ghost, by Natasha Mac a’Bháird, at Scope for ImaginationBook Craic, and Nayu's Reading Corner 

The Wanderdays: Journey to Fantome Island, by Clare Povey, at Scope for Imagination

Authors and Interviews

Ben Miller (The Day I Fell Into a Fairytale) at Writer's Digest

Rob Long and Andrew Dolberg (The Great Weather Diviner) at GSMC Book Review Podcast 


Puzzleheart, by Jenn Reese

It's always a happy thing when a favorite author has a new book!  And indeed, Puzzleheart, by Jenn Reese (May 14, 2024, middle grade fantasy, Henry Holt and Co.) rewarded me with several happy hours of reading.

Twelve-year-old Perigee is worried about their depressed dad, and so they set in motion a visit to their grandmother's, where they have never been, which they hope will mend both the family and their dad's spirits (and maybe alleviate Perigee's growing concerns about finances...). And Perigee is eager to see for themselves the puzzle house bed and breakfast that their grandparents built between them, a house that is now sad and neglected with no new puzzles being added to its repertoire.  (Literally the house is feeling this, as it is a self-aware being).

Though Perigee is happy to find a girl their own age, Lily, staying at the house to be a new friend, Grandma does not welcome them.  She shows no interest in reconnecting with her son, who she sent off to live with relatives when Grandpa died, or in getting to know her grandchild.  But the house is very interested, and Perigee quickly becomes aware that there some things in this house of puzzles that their science-loving brain will have to file on a new "unexplainable" shelf...

Grandma wants to shut the house down and sell the place.  But to do so means solving the last of the house's puzzles, one that Grandpa set up to lead to the shut-off point.  And Perigee and Lily set out to do this.  The house is (understandably) not happy at the prospect of being shut down, and starts to fight back.  The puzzles become deadly as the house literally starts tearing itself apart to save itself.  But it's also figuratively doing the same--it is almost killing its family, and it can't stand what it is doing...or stop doing it.  

The puzzles and traps and tricks, and wonderous rooms of marvels, make for great reading, brought to vivid life by great descriptive writing.  But it's the emotional struggle of the book--to mend broken family ties, to see a path forward to a happier future, and in Perigee's particular case, to accept the mending other people isn't a burden they should be tearing their own self apart in order to bear--that gives the book it's powerful and moving heart.  

So come for death puzzles (with bonus kittens), enjoy picking which of the marvelous bedrooms you like best, and stay for hearts healing. Also, if you are me, enjoy the metaphors wrapped into the Puzzle House itself (if I had to write an essay for class on this book, I'd write about this).  Reese's A Game of Fox and Squirrels is still my favorite of her books (my review) but I like this one lots and lots too!

disclaimer-review copy received from the publisher.


The Ship in the Garden, by Zetta Elliott, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Ship in the Garden, by Zetta Elliott (middle grade, independently published, 104 pages), this week's Timeslip Tuesday book, is many things in one--a fantasy story with magical beings, a story of 13 year old Scottish kids with non-magical worries, a story about the slave trade in Scotland, and a time travel story that sends one of the kids back in time into enslavement on a Caribbean island.

It starts with a school field trip to Pollok House, build by an 18th-century Glasgow merchants whose fortune was based on slavery.  The day is marred for Kofi when he's paired with Gavin, a racist tough who is determined to make him miserable.  Kofi is also a new kid, followed by rumors about what he did to get suspended from his previous school, and he's also a kid living with the sadness of his beloved Ghanaian grandmother's sickness.  

So things are already a lot for Kofi when the tour of Pollok House is full of weirdness with no logical explanation, including a shadowy doppelganger and sounds no one else hears (this part is great haunted house reading!).  Then he explores outside and finds a book Gavin nicked from the house's library, smeared with blood, lying on the ground near the replica of an 18th-century merchant ship. And then Gavin doesn't show when it's time to get back on the bus to school.

Kofi shares his worry that something's happened to Gavin with a Kaylee, a black classmate who seems like a possible friend. But Kaylee, who Gavin has also targeted because she is trans, refuses to care.  So Kofi goes back to the garden alone....and meets an urisk, a strange and lonely Scottish magical creature.  The urisk is trying to bring back his one friend, a Caribbean boy who was the enslaved page boy of the 18th century family.  Gavin was the offering he used to try to make this happen....

And though I could go on and on synopsizing, because there's a lot of story in this relatively slim book, suffice it to say that Gave has travelled back in time into enslavement in the Caribbean, and Kofi is determined to bring him back (partly because he doesn't want the other enslaved people to have to deal with a racist young Nazi bully in their midst, but a bit also because he is horrified by the wrongness of the whole thing).

But to save Gavin, Kofi must resist the urisk's schemes and deflections, and he must be brave enough to face the great Water Mother herself and make a sacrifice that tears at his heart.....all for a racist bully, who, it turns out, is furious about being saved....

Although most of the story is Kofi's first person point of view in the present, we also get glimpses of Gavin's life in the past.  It is tragic and grim, but it does give Gavin the chance to feel connection such as he lacked in the present.  It's not a redemption arc in which Gavin is magically en-nicened, but an explanatory arc with hope for change.  As for Kaylee, she's such a strong and vibrant character that when she's on the page we don't need to be in her head.   

Like I said, there's a lot of story here, and it kept me reading past my bedtime with much interest and enjoyment. Older middle grade fantasy readers will probably do the same, and they'll get some learning of Scottish and Carribean history in the process, and have thoughts provoked about the present as well. There's weight here of past and present sadness, but the fantastical elements, likeable main character, and the vivid pictures created by the fine writing relieve enough of the pressure to make it a (thought-provoking) pleasure for the reader (me).  I wish, though, (and this might be a matter of personal taste) that it had been less brisk and gripping, with more moments of inflection and reflection, smoothing the transitions, and giving space for the powerful moments to reverberate more clearly. 

For more about Zetta Elliott and how she came to write this particular book, here's a talk she gave over at her website--“‘I AM MYRTILLA’S DAUGHTER’: WEAVING SCOTLAND, SLAVERY, AND SITHS INTO HISTORICAL FANTASIES”  (well worth reading!)


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/21/24)

Greetings from Rhode Island, where I've mostly read grown-up books this week for a change of pace....Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

 Alex Neptune: Zombie Fighter, by David Owen, at Book Craic

The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh, at Bookwork for Kids

Daughters of the Lamp, by Nedda Lewers, at Pages Unbound 

The Day I Fell Into A Fairy Tale, by Ben Miller, at Bookworm for Kids and Crafty Moms Share

The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly, at ReadWonder

A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan, at The Book Search and Charlotte's Library

Gamer (Virtual Kombat #1), by Chris Bradford, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Under the Smokestrewn Sky (The Up-and-Under 4), by A. Deborah Baker, at A Dance With Books

Midsummer’s Mayhem, by Rajani LaRocca, at Story Warren

 Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind, by Misa Sugiura, at Garik16's SciFi/Fantasy Reviews and Other Thoughts

North and the Only One, by Vashti Hardy, at Scope for Imagination

Pages & Co, by Anna James (series review) at United by Pop

The Sailor Cipher (Explorer Academy Vela: Book 1), by Trudi Trueit, at Mark My Words

 The Secret of the Moonshard, by Struan Murray, at Valinora Troy

Authors and Interviews

Terry J. Benton (Blood Justice) at  Geek Vibes Nation


Throwback, by Maurene Goo, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's time travel book, Throwback, by Maurene Goo (YA, April 2023, Zando Young Readers), sends Samantha, the daughter of Korean immigrants, back in time to the 1990s, where she has to play the role of an ordinary high school kid until she figures out what she needs to change back in the past in order to get home again.

Sam is kicking hard against her mother's expectations and aspirations.  We first met her when she's deliberately being obnoxious during her parents' country club membership interview (and yes, I share Sam's views about country clubs and their grass maintenance issues, but still it was hard to like her at first).  She and her mother, Priscilla, are clashing at every turn, and it comes to a head when Priscilla's mom, Sam's beloved Halomi, is hospitalized and in a coma.  No, Sam doesn't want to be taken shopping for a Homecoming dress the next day.  And tells her mother she hates her (and yes, I see where Sam is coming from, and there are failures of communication on both sides, but it strengthened my feelings about Sam being self-centered).

In any event, she has to find a ride back to school....and the driver who comes to pick her up ends up taking her back to the past.  

So there's Sam, in the 1990s, in her mom's high school.  Her mom is in the running for homecoming queen, and Sam knows she didn't win, and that somehow this situation soured the relationship between her and Halomi.  Maybe this is what she needs to change...so she makes herself Priscilla's campaign manager.

The culture shock is real--Sam has never been more conscious of being Korean and is appalled by the racism her mom had/has to deal with daily.  There's also the casual misogyny, lack of environmental awareness, and lack of technology.  But sticking to Priscilla like glue, she finds her understanding of her mother deepening, finds her grandmother wasn't nearly as wonderful as a mother, and finds that they are actually becoming real friends.  And on top of this, she finds herself falling by another new kid, a boy who seems almost as out of place as she is....

I never did quite warm to Sam, who I found too pushy and thoughtless, but I did very much appreciate the way she becomes more aware of what her mother is really like as a person, and more understanding of the circumstances that made her who she became.  This is really well done.  And I found the romance sub-plot fun as well (and was glad to see Sam doing some critical thinking about her boyfriend back in the present; there were many red flags that she was ignoring).  What was the most fun though were the trials and tribulations of being a modern girl back in the 1990s, and the target audience should get a kick out of this as well. 

In short, an engrossing read with enough thought-provoking-ness to keep it from being just fluffy fun, and more than enough fun to make it more than an emotionally heavy mother-daughter relationship story.

Time travel wise--Sam lucked out here.  She finds a place to stay with a kind woman who she knows in her own time as an assisted living resident with dementia, and this woman not only gives her food and shelter but also money.  The mechanics of the time travel were satisfactory, and the changes made in the past did have ripples, but the biggest change was in Sam's greater understanding of her mother, her grandmother, and her (now ex) boyfriend.


no round-up today

 a combination of eclipse viewing in Vermont (utterly magical.  Clear skies, snow on the ground making the weird light effects even more so, mountain views, and three minutes of mind-blowing totality) followed by the worst traffic of my life leaving VT--10 hours at 11 mph, got off the highway at 2 to find a hotel) and house guests has left no time for blogging.  Here's the world beginning to grow dim at Sentinel Rock Park, northern Vermont (where we actually sat we were surrounded by six inches of less trodden snow....)

see you next week!


this week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs etc. (4/7/24)

Good morning all!  Here's what I found this week--

The Reviews

Alyssa and the Spell Garden, by Alexandra Sheppard, at Book Craic

The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo, at Susan Uhlig

ChupaCarter and the Screaming Sombrero, by George Lopez and Ryan Calejo, at Mark My Words

The Clockwork Conspiracy, by Sam Sedgman, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

The Color of Sound, by Emily Barth Isler, at Charlotte's Library

The Deadlands Series, by Skye Melki-Wegner, at The Story Sanctuary

Ferris, by Kate DiCamillo, at The Book Muse  

The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly, at Linda Browne

A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan, at Charlotte's Library

Lightningborn, by Julie Kagawa, at The Reading Cafe

The Minor Miracle, by Meredith Davis, at Bookworm for Kids

Olivetti, by Allie Millington, at The Book Search

Olivia Cole and the Legend of the Silver Seed, by Ricky Melamed, at Pass Me That Book  

The Princess Protection Program, by Alex London, at Unleashing Readers

Spindleheart: Trail of Shadow and Spool, by T.I. Avens, at Mark My Words

The Voyage of Sam Singh, by Gita Ralleigh, at Little Blog of Library Treasures 

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Lumbering Giants of Windy Pines, by Mo Netz, and City of Wishes (Legends of Lotus Island #3), by Christina Soontornvat and Kevin Hong

Other good stuff

from last month, but still good--How to design engaging book cover art --in which Tony DiTerlizzi walks us through the process of a new cover design for The Search for Wondla, a mg fantasy.

and feel free to wish me luck as I head north from RI this evening for an exciting Eclipse Day in Vermont (annoyingly with no open used bookstores to visit on the way, but hopefully the eclipse will make up for that disappointment....)


A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan


A Game of Noctis, by Deva Fagan (April 9, 2024 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers), is a beautifully gripping, thought-provoking, and fun magical read!

In Pia's home city, the Game is all that matters. Winning games gives you the de facto currency needed to survive, and if you fail as a player, you are relegated to a low status life of service jobs or exiled to a life of servitude outside the city.  When Pia's grandfather's game rank falls below the minimum (he can't afford the new glasses he needs to be a competitive player) and he is taken away by the policing automatons of the city, Pia is determined to use her own skills as a game player to win enough to bring him home again.  But it's a ridiculously large amount of game credit; even if she never loses, it would take years.  

Except that wining the annual Great Game of Noctis would take care of it all.  And so when she meets Vittoria, a girl her own age with a brash confidence in her gaming skill, who offers her a place on the team she's assembling to compete in the Game of Noctis, Pia says yes.  Even though Noctis is a deadly game, played with Death herself as a piece on the board.

Vittoria's team, the Seafoxes, are underdogs in a competition dominated by the wealthy, but each member brings their particular skills beautifully to bear.  And each has their own reason for needing to win, and their own journeys that have brought them to this point.  But the Game of Noctis turns out to be rigged--those who have power and privilege are perfectly happy to bend to rules to keep it.

Pia and her teammates must question the underpinnings of their world if they are going to win.  But challenging the status quo can be just as dangerous as playing games with Death herself.  (And Death really is a real "person" who Pia meets outside of the game, giving extra fantasy depth to the story).

It was a tremendously entertaining read, with just the right amount of detail about the various matches in the Great Game--enough to make it all wonderfully clear without being pages of unbroken description.  The characters to are allowed to reveal themselves and their stories gradually, so the reader gets to know them as real people alongside Pia, instead of them being intro-dumped.  It was really well done!

I have to confess the premise of the world's economy built on game victories was initially hard for me to accept.  But revelations about how it works, which are slowly revealed to both the characters and the reader, made it all make sense by the time it was ready to be blown to bits!

Highly recommended, in particular to fantasy readers who like games and competitions along with a touch of magic, and who are eager to cheer on a revolution.  It's easy to imagine wanting to re-read it.


The Color of Sound, by Emily Barth Isler, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's Timeslip Tuesday book is The Color of Sound, by Emily Barth Isler (March 2024, Carolrhoda), is a really absorbing book about Rosie, a girl whose mother is determined not to let her tremendous musical talent be neglected in any way whatsoever. When this pressure breaks Rosie's one friendship, she decides to go on strike and stop playing, so she can make space to find out who she is outside of music.  And so instead of spending her summer focusing on her violin as she has every summer for years, she's off with her mother to the family home in the countryside of Connecticut, where her grandmother is dying of Alzheimer's.

Rosie doesn't know her grandparents well at all, because the violin has always taken precedence in her life, and she doesn't know what to do with herself at her grandparents.  Music still fills her mind, coupled with synesthesia, leaving her disquieted.  But then she finds an old shed being used as a retreat for a girl her own age, Shoshanna, and it seems like they might become friends....Quickly Rosie realizes that this girl isn't an ordinary neighbor--she is her mother, back when she was a kid in 1994.  And Rosie wonders how this lively girl, longing for music herself, became the controlled and controlling woman dedicated to always making sure that the violin comes first.

In the weeks that follows, Rosie manages to make friends with ordinary kids, an older group doing an improv class at the library, she becomes comfortable for the first time with the resident large dog, and she gets to know her grandfather. She learns from him about the history of her Jewish family, and how they escaped the Holocaust, though leaving many of the family behind.  This history leads her back to music, through the song her grandmother remembers her own mother playing....a song she longs to hear again.  It leads her to think more about being Jewish, too, something that wasn't part of her violin focused life.  

And she wonders if somehow she can connect with her mother back in 1994, pushing her toward a present where Rosie's musical genius isn't the whole of their relationship.

I loved all the elements of the family, the memories, Rosie's introspection, and the music that fills the book (even though Rosie only plays three times), and of course the time slipping, though never explained, and never a real driver of the story, was a nice bonus.  But I expected there to be some dramatic reveal about why Rosie's mother ended up the way she did, and there wasn't. It's not at all clear why she is the way she is and not believable that she changes so much at the end of the story (even though this is what Rosie was trying to do with hints and nudges back in the past).  

That being said, it was pretty much a single sitting read for me and I might well re-read it in a few years.


this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/31/24)

Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed anything!

The Reviews

Ace Adler and the Pendulum of Doom, by John H. Matthews, at  Mark My Words

Amari and the Great Game, by B. B. Alston, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Amari and the Night Brothers, by B.B. Alston, at Novels Alive

Dragon Force: Devourer’s Attack, by Katie & Kevin Tsang, at Scope for Imagination

Festergrimm, by Thomas Taylor, at Puss Reboots 

The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly, at Charlotte's Library

Into the Witchwood, by Méabh McDonnell, at Book Craic

The Island at the Edge of the Night, by Lucy Strange, at Library Girl and Book Boy

Night of the Squawker (Goosebumps SlappyWorld #18), by R.L. Stine, at Ms. Yingling Reads 

The Rise of  the Legends, by Jake Zortman, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

The Secret Doors of Cannondale, by Stephanie Brick, at  PR Newswire

The Secret Library, by Kekla Magoon, at Log Cabin Library

Sparkling Mist of Time (The Deliverers 4), by Gregory Slomba, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Things that Go Bump, by Kathryn Foxfield, at Twirling Book Princess

Two at School Library Journal--Daughters of the Lamp, by Nedda Lewers, and Medusa, by Katherine Marsh

Other Good Stuff 

"Why adults should read children's books" by Katherine Rundell at the BBC


The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly, for Timeslip Tuesday

The First State of Being, by Erin Entrada Kelly (March, 2024, Greenwillow Books) is a delightful and heartwarming middle grade time travel book that I enjoyed lots.

In August, 1999 (which will seem very strange and far away to the target audience), 12-year-old Michael prepares for the potential disaster that is Y2K.  When we first meet him, he's shop lifting a can of peaches to add to his survival stash kept under his bed--his mom is working three jobs and can't give him the money he'd like to spend getting properly prepared.  Though money his tight, his mother insists on paying 15-year-old Gibby to keep an eye on him, and though Michael feels confident he'd manage find without her, he still enjoys her company, both because he has a crush on her and because his anxiety and social awkwardness has made it hard for him to have friends. His only other friend is the old maintenance man for the apartment complex.

But then into the mediocre life of Fox Run Apartments, in Red Knot, Delaware, comes a teenaged boy, Ridge, strangely dressed and disoriented.  He's a time traveler from the future, and when Michael learns this, he's desperate to know what happens with Y2K.  But Ridge isn't telling.  He's in enough trouble already, as we learn from glimpses of what's happening in the future.  He wasn't supposed to be the first time traveler ever, and he's not going to risk spoiling the future by letting on all he knows.  He just wants to experience life in 1999, especially seeing what a mall is like....

There aren't any dramatic happenings in Ridge's time in 1999, although there are many complexities that Gibby and Michael must deal with.  And although Ridge doesn't tell all he knows, the time Michael spends with him gives him confidence not just about the future but about the present.  And it all ends in a beautiful, time travel wonderful way!

I enjoyed it very much.  The time travel has just the right amount of sci fi to it to make it if not plausible at least acceptable, and the repercussions of Ridge's trip to 1999 are lovely. It will bring that long lost time vividly to life for young readers, and the interpersonal dynamics and tension will keep the pages turning for them very nicely indeed.  I even grew a bit at one particularly poignant point in the best possible way.


this week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (3/24/24)

Hi all, and greetings from a cold spring morning here in Rhode Island (a good day to read by the fire....)

Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Bubba and Squirt's Shield of Athena, by Sherry Ellis, at Bookworm for Kids 

Cloudlanders, by Christopher Mackie, at Mark My Words

The Deadlands: Survival (The Deadlands #3), by Skye Melki-Wegner, at The Story Sanctuary

Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Staircase Wit

Ferris, by Kate DiCamillo, at ReadWonder and Redeemed Reader

The Island at the Edge of Night, by Lucy Strange, at Scope for Imagination

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time, by P.J. Davis, at The Fairview Review

Nightmares in Paradise (Ring of Solomon 2), by Aden Polydoros, at Mark My Words

Once There Was, by Kiyash Monsef, at Pages Unbound

Pages of Doom, by Jeff Szpirglas, at Bookworm for Kids 

Shadowhall Academy: The Whispering Walls. by Phil Hickes, at Twirling Book Princess

Sona and the Golden Beasts, by Rajani LaRocca, at Charlotte's Library

Stinetinglers 2, by R.L. Stine, at Twirling Book Princess

Stitch, by Pádraig Kenny, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads and A Cascade of Books

Teddy vs. the Fuzzy Doom, by Braden Hallett, at Twirling Book Princess

Tourmaline and the Museum of Marvels, by Ruth Lauren, at Book Craic

The Traitor of Nubis (Umbra Tales 2), by Janelle McCurdy, at  Mark My Words

The Unicorn Legacy: Tangled Magic, by Camilla Benko, at Ms. Yingling Reads

When the Wild Calls, by Nicola Penfold, at Scope for Imagination

The Witch in the Woods (Grimmworld #1) by Michaelbrent Collings, at Kiss the Book

Authors and Interviews

Linda Crotta Brennan (The Selkie’s Daughter) at the Kansas  Public Radio podcast

Other Good Stuff

Greenwild: The World Behind the Door by Pari Thomson is the winnder of the Waterstones children’s book prize The Guardian


Sona and the Golden Beasts, by Rajani LaRocca

Sona and the Golden Beasts (March 5, 2024, Quill Tree Books) is Rajani LaRocca's first other world fantasy, and having read and enjoyed many of her other books (especially Midsummer's Mayhem) this was a must read for me with no languishing on the tbr pile as soon as I got my hands on it! 

The alternate world is a fantasy version of India under British rule. Devia is a place where music calls forth magic, now forbidden by the conquering and exploiting Malechians.  They grow rich from Devia's gems, mined at great cost to its people.  Sona has lived relatively safe and privileged life as the daughter of a Malechian farmer, but her world is upended when she finds that she's actually his niece, and her father was a Devian (a forbidden marriage).  But the implications of this are overshadowed by the threat to the young wolf cub she's just adopted--one of the Malechian Hunters, who's determined to kill all five of the Great Beasts of Devia, its magical protectors) arrives at the farm, and cub shows signs that she might be the child and heir of the mythical golden wolf.  

She flees with the cub to the nearby Devian village that is her beloved Ayah's home and her extraordinary journey across the provinces of Devia begins. 

At first this is a relatively straightforward sort of challenge--to find a legendary cure for her Ayah accompanied by Raag, Ayah's grandson.  But it turns out it's a journey to fulfill a prophecy about the Great Beasts that will free Devia from its oppressors....and the two children must learn to work together to bring it about, while the fearsome Hunter pursues them.  

It's no surprise that they succeed, and the twist was apparent enough that even I, who am usually dim about things, saw it coming.  That being said, it's a gorgeously detailed journey full of wonder and danger, vividly described and full of excitements.  And in-between the happening are bits of folklore, letters, and songs that make the Devia and its history come even more to life.

As an adult reader, I came into the story with a fairly solid grasp of the English colonial exploration of India, and so the parallels were glaringly obvious.  For young readers with less knowledge, this will be eye-opening.  What with all suppression of books that hold harsh truths about the past, I'm glad that this story of the evil of colonization comes in what looks to be an ordinary fantasy, so that those young readers might have a better chance of finding it in their schools (maybe?), and get the chance to think about it.  It's also a good read, with great magic and characters to cheer for too!


no round-up today

 It's end of spring break, which means me about to set to take my kid back to college....see you next week!


The Other Place, by Nancy L. Robison, for Timeslip Tuesday

Today's Timeslip book is The Other Place, by Nancy L. Robison (1978).

Mine, happily picked up at a booksale, turned out to be a review copy (very cool to see the retro promotional info, shown below), but I don't think I'll send in two clippings as requested.

I'm making no effort to hold back on spoilers here with this whacky 1970s sci fi story for kids, so if you are a little kid who's never read any science fiction (which you aren't), go read the book and see if you agree with the two Goodreads readers whose first sci fi it was, and who loved it before I ruin everything.

The Other Place starts with Elena and her dad driving off to the house in the country (USA) where they are now going live, following the death of Elena's mom.  Things get weird, and Elena can't see the road behind them anymore, and her dad's stilted remarks don't do much to sooth her growing sense of wrongness.  The cabin is fine, and seems normal enough, except that Elena is woken up by strange noises, and goes off into the woods to see what's happening, and the townsfolk are dancing around in the middle of nowhere. 

A trip to the store the next day adds to the weirdness, when she sees the storekeeper has eyes filmed over with jelly...as do the kids and the teacher in the one room schoolhouse.  One kid, with mostly non jelly eyes, is friendly, lending her a horse to ride, but when she tries to ride her way out of the valley, she finds she can't.  She's stuck.

Turns out the townsfolk are aliens in a little bubble cut off physically and temporally from the rest of the world, her mom was one of them, and her dad has volunteered to help them fix their space craft so they can go home.  Happily for Elena, the friendly kid helps her get out of the valley, but her dad wants to go off with the aliens because he loves his dead alien wife more than he cares about his living kid (the book does not say it quite like this....).  And when Elena escapes after what felt like weeks away from the city, almost no time has passed, and her aunt is there to meet her....and her aunt has.....JELLY EYES!  The end.

The illustrations add a certain 1970s something to the story.

The paperback cover, if you are so lucky to be reading that one, adds even more.  


This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/10/24)

Here's what I found this week, please enjoy and let me know if I missed anything!  I had good intentions to read and review lots this past week, which got derailed when I found out I would not just be getting my kid home from college this week, but lots of friends too, so instead of reading I cleaned and decluttered...

The Reviews

Closet of Dreams, by Mark Ukra & Tara Mesalik MacMahon, at Mark My Words: 

Creepy Creations, by Jennifer Killick, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads  

 Ferris, by Kate DiCamillo, at Cracking the Cover, Fuse #8, and Log Cabin Library

The Girl in the Window, by Lindsey Hobson, at Faith Elizabeth Hough

 Goblin Monday (Goosebumps: House of Shivers #2), by R.L. Stine, at megsbookrack

Greenwild: The World Behind the Door, by Pari Thomson, at V's View from the Bookshelves 

Grimmworld: The Witch in the Woods, by Michaelbrent Collings, at Always in the Middle…  and Melissa's Bookshelf

Magicalia: Race of Wonders by Jennifer Bell, at Little Blog of Library Treasures

Magic Beyond the Mark, by Emily Swiers, at Independent Book Review

Mind Over Monsters, by Betsy Uhrig, at Bookworm for Kids 

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time, by PJ Davis, at Mark My Words  

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising, #1), by Susan Cooper, Bookshelf Fantasies

Twice Upon A Time, by Michelle Harrison, at Valinora Troy

The Whisperwicks, by Jordan Lees, at Chris Soul

Winston Chu vs. the Whimsies, by Stacey Lee, at  BookstrovertReviews

Wrath of the Rain God (Legendarios Book 1), by Karla Arenas Valenti, at Mark My Words

Authors and Interviews

Katherine Marsh (Medusa) "On The Double Standards As An Author", at The Nerd Daily

Rajani LaRocca (Sona and the Golden Beasts)  "How to Grow Your Career as an Author" at Literary Rambles: 

Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson  (Eagle Drums) "When Mystery and Mythology Collide" at Writer's Digest 

Kate DiCamillo (Ferris), at AP News

Other good stuff

Here's the Wild Robot trailer, courtesy of 100scopenotes.com


Anne Frank and Me, by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld, for Timeslip Tuesday

Anne Frank and Me, by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld (1997), is this week's Timeslip Tuesday offering. It tells of a teenaged girl, Nicole, who's mind is full of stereotypical teen stuff, including pining over Jack.  Her diary thoughts of pining will perhaps be familiar to many readers who are, or once were, teenaged girls with their own hopeless crushes.  

At school, her history teacher is trying to explain the horrors of the holocaust, but it seems distant, and even Anne Frank's diary seems, according to the internet searches Nicole does, a possible fake....so she's not really interested in the class trip to the local "Anne Frank in the World" exhibit, except, of course, that Jack is going to, and maybe he'll want to sit with her on the bus...and he does!  but it turns out that he's actually interested in a friend of hers, and everything is horrible, and then there are gunshots, and everyone thinks is the strange goth-type boy shooting, and she falls and hits her head....

And comes to as a Jewish girl in German occupied Paris. 

She still is her American self at first, but very quickly she fades into the place of the girl whose life she is now living.  Things get worse and worse for the Jewish people of Paris, and she and her little sister end up in hiding.  But they are betrayed and sent on a hellish journey to a concentration camp.  Miraculously she actually meets Anne Frank, who tells her which way to go when they arrive, but the little sister goes the wrong way, Nicole follows, and they end up in a gas chamber.  And as she starts dying, she awakens in her own time again.

And it's not a shooting after all, it was a fireworks prank.

So this started off as a play, and I think this is why it doesn't quite work as novel.  Nicole's tone is very flatly matter-of-factly descriptive through all the horror she endures.  There's little emotion or introspection, and in general it's all told without much inner character development, which is possibly due to her not being herself anymore.  But still it's very gripping and impactful, and I stayed up late finishing it, and was moved by the hideous evil tragedy of it all...

,...with an extra coda of discomfort, not intended by the authors--this was written before the era of school shootings began in earnest with Columbine, and the fact that the shooting with which the time travel begins turns out to be a joke is pretty disturbing to a person reading it now.



This week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (3/3/24)

 Hi all, here's what I found this week!  Let me know if I missed anything.

The Reviews

Bumps in the Night, by Amalie Howard, at Ms. Yingling Reads

 Daughters of the Lamp, by Nedda Lewers, at Islamic School Librarian

Dread Wood: Creepy Creations, by Jennifer Killick, at Scope for Imagination

Dreamstalkers: The Night Train, by Sarah Driver, at Bellis Does Books and Books Up North

Fright Bite, by Jennifer Killick, at  Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

Impossible Creatures, by Katherine Rundell, at Mark My Words

Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom, by Nina Varela, at Cannonball Read

Lia Park and the Missing Jewel, by Jenna Yoon, at Kiss the Book

Lili Gray and the World's Most Embarrassing Superpower, by Ada Loewe, at Mark My Words

Medusa by Katherine Marsh, at The Adventures of Library Girl

Paper Dragons: The Fight for the Hidden Realm, by Siobhan McDermott, at Courtney Reads Romance 

Pirates of Darksea, by Catherine Doyle, at Book Craic

The Princess Protection Program, by Alex London, at Baroness' Book Trove and Cannonball Read 

The Selkie's Daughter, by Linda Cotta Brennan, at Faith Elizabeth Hough

 Sona and the Golden Beasts, by Rajani LaRocca, at Steph's Story Space  

Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont, by Nick Brooks, at Charlotte's Library

The Unicorn Legacy-Tangled Magic, by Kamilla Benko, at Always in the Middle… 

Authors and Interviews

 Meredith Davis (Beneath the Swirling Sky) at Cynthia Leitich Smith

Other Good Stuff

 'Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond' To Be Adapted As Animated TV Show (deadline.com)


Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont, by Nick Brooks

I very much enjoyed meeting Ethan Fairmont and his friends, including the alien they call Cheese in his first outing (my review) so I dove into Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont, by Nick Brooks, (middle grade, November 2023, Union Square Kids), with pleasure, and was rewarded by a good read.

Ethan is happily planning interesting inventing and pleasant hanging out at the old industrial building now turned maker space where he met Cheese, and foiled the other hostile aliens hunting down Cheese and his people.  And he's happily looking forward to the start of sixth grade.  Less happily, he misses Cheese lots, and he and his family are still cooping from the trauma of the local police and the feds threatening the black community of Ferrous City and his family in particular.  And then school gets off to a rocky start, when a new girl, Fatima, threatens his self-worth with her own inventor smarts, and Ferrous City is experiencing a population boom that's raising real estate prices, and Ethan's parents, who are doing fine but aren't well off, are considering cashing in. On top of all this, the feds are back in town (and what are they up to?)

Turns out, though, that Fatima is just the new team member Ethan needs to re-establish communication with Cheese.  And Fatima is even more needed when the evil aliens renew hostilities....

It's not a comfort read; as the title suggests, too many interesting (and not very joyous) things are going on in Ethan's life.  But it's a gripping read, and a thought-provoking one, and I enjoyed it. The young characters are believable and very relatable, as is Ethan's growing maturity about teamwork and living in the moment instead of what if-ing, the tension builds at a nice pace, and the ending is satisfactory!  The social justice theme of the first book is here as well, as is an age-appropriate romance.  And of course a lovely alien friendship! 

If there is a third book, I'm there for it!


this week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (2/25/24)

Here's what I found this week; let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander, at Semicolon 

Bumps in the Night, by Amalie Howard, at Jenjenreviews

The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher, at Pages Unbound

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood, by R.J. Parker, at Pages and Paws

Daughters of the Lamp, by Nedda Lewers, at Cracking the Cover

The Doll Twin, by Janine Beacham, at Valinora Troy

Elf Dog and Owl Head, by M.T. Anderson, at Sonderbooks

Ferris, by Kate DiCamillo, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Fox Snare (Thousand Worlds #3), by Yoon Ha Lee, at Charlotte's Library

Haunted Holiday, by Kiersten White, at Puss Reboots 

Lei And The Fire Goddess, by Malia Maunakea, at Kiss the Book

The Lightcasters (Umbra Tales 1), by Janelle McCurdy, at Mark My Words 

Medusa, by Katherine Marsh, at Cracking the Cover

The Princess Protection Program, by Alex London, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Unicorn Legacy: Tangled Magic, by Kamilla Benko, at  The Story Sanctuary

The World Beyond the Door, by Pari Thomson, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Two at The Book Search--The Princess Protection Program, by Alex London, and The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith, by Tom Llewellyn

Other Good Stuff

Check out the middle grade category of the 2023 Bram Stoker Awards® Final Ballot for great mg horror recs!

Fox Snare (Thousand Worlds #3), by Yoon Ha Lee

Another very busy week for me, with none of the reviews I wanted to write being written...so here once more is a quick one before I post today's round up.

Fox Snare (Thousand Worlds #3), by Yoon Ha Lee, is the third installment of great space adventure for upper middle grade readers on up (but do read the first two books in the series first).

Min, the fox spirt who was the central character of Dragon Pearl, is now the keeper of that titular pearl, which can magically terraform in hospitable planets.  Before this, terraforming relied on Dragon magic, and now the Dragons are unhappy that they now outclassed.  Haneuol, a young dragon, was once Min's friend, and when she arrives on the vessel where Min is currently in residence as part of the Dragon delegation to important diplomatic negations with the leader of the Sun Clan nations, Min hopes they can rekindle their relationship, but it doesn't go well. Sebin, the non-binary tiger spirit who was the central character of Tiger Honor, is a cadet on this same ship, and finds themselves drawn into the diplomatic tensions as well.

The leaders of the Thousand Worlds want to use Min and the pearl to terraform a planet that lies at a crucial junction between the two hostile factions...but it's not just location that makes this planet a prize both sides want--long ago an immensely powerful war ships crashed there, and whichever side can recover it will have a huge military advantage.

Then the space station where the negotiations are being held explodes.  Min, Haneuol, and Sabin crash land on the contested planet, along with a fox spirit woman who is clearly a suspicious character, and whose own agenda is occluded by her fox gift of charm.  Travelling across this alien world to the site of the crashed warship, Min is troubled by the conflict between her loyalty to the Thousand Worlds and her desire to trust another Fox, Sabin is torn between strict adherence to duty and critical examination of what is happening, and Haneul must wrestle with familial expectations and her own wishes.

And then they reach the ship, and things get enormously more tense as the threesome realizes the truth about why it was never recovered, and just what the Fox spirit woman has planned.

Told in alternating points of view by Min and Sebin, this is a gripping read in which the character's personal conflicts and the external dangers are beautifully balanced, and the magical abilities of the shape shifters, and some unexpected supernatural elements, make for lovely reading.  This installment is more direct than the previous book in identifying the Thousand Worlds as being of Korean descent, and the Sun Clans as being Japanese, making it an even more thought-provoking read. 

My only worry is that this seems to be the final book about these characters and their universe, and that thought makes me sad.  On the other hand, I can look forward to a nice re-read....

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