Rival Magic, by Deva Fagan (with giveaway!)

Rival Magic, by Deva Fagan (Atheneum, April 2020), is a tremendously fun middle grade fantasy, and though it doesn't come out till April 21st, I'm reviewing it now so that I can offer you a chance to win an ARC of your own from the author!

It's the story of two girls, both apprenticed to the same master, who have to put aside their competition to best each other. Even more challengingly, they must put aside their very different views of the world, and their family's expectations for them, which are rooted in the political turmoil that's threatening to bring chaos to Medasia, their island home.

Though Antonia diligently memorizes all the words to the spells, her ability to make them work isn't the strongest, and she's constantly worried that she's disappointing both her teacher, the famous sorcerer Betrys, and her mother, a powerful and privileged woman who expects great things of her.  When Moppe, the scullery maid, manifests powerful magic and is taken on by Master Betrys as a second apprentice, her doubts grow.  Antonia is happiest pouring through tomes of spells; Moppe finds reading a challenge.  Only one of the girls can move onward toward mastery...but will it be book-learned Antonia, or brilliant, uncontrolled Moppe?

But their rivalry has to take a back-seat to more pressing concerns.  Magical killer statues are on the loose, there's a rebellion growing against the rulers of their island, and Master Betrys is arrested for treason.  Antonia and Moppe are determined to follow her final instruction to them, to find the lost crown of Medasia.  The crown gives its wearer control of a magical weapon (not your average weapon, but a fun mg fantasy sort of thing) that confers pretty much absolute power to its wearer.  Which is just what each girls' family wants, but for diametrically opposed reasons.

Not only must Antonia and Moppe face a number of challenges to get the crown (ancient spells, dangerous mermaids, and their worst fears, magically magnified), they must figure out how to work magic together, with their gifts complementing each other.  Together, they can bring the crown home....but who will wear it?

This is a fine example of the sort of middle grade fantasy that one reads in just about a single-sitting, with interesting, likeable main characters, lots of delightfully magical twists and turns, and twists in the plot as well.  The story moves along briskly, with the stakes gradually rising from a rather ordinary rivalry to thought-provoking questions about political power and who gets to have it.  Really really enjoyable! I read it almost two months ago, and it is still fresh and bright in my mind's eye.

Though Moppe is described as having darker skin than Antonia, I didn't think it was quite enough to count this as diverse fantasy, but I love how Master Betrys is shown on the cover, making her a rare (in middle grade fantasy) woman of color with authority and knowledge!

Leave a comment below by the end of the day (midnight, EST) on March 8, that has some way to reach you (I can find you if your name leads back somewhere that has your email), and Deva will send you your own arc!


  1. Ooh! I'd love to read this one!

  2. I would also like to read this - have enjoyed her earlier books.



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