Even and Odd, by Sarah Beth Durst

Even and Odd (Clarion, June 15 2021) is the latest stand-alone middle grade fantasy from Sarah Beth Durst, and it is a good one!

Even and Odd are sisters whose parents run a shop at the boarder between our world and the magical world of Firoth (the clientele includes centaurs, elves, and a variety of other beings, and the merchandise is both magical and mundane).  Even and Odd have inherited their parents own magic, but with a twist--they alternate days.  Even, the older sister, loves the days she's the one with magic.  She can't wait to pass the tests that will qualify her for heroic feats of daring magic.  Odd isn't as happy.  Volunteering at the local animal rescue is the most important thing in her life, and sometime her out of control magic messes things up.

When their mother goes into Firoth on a business trip, the girls are left at home with their dad, much to Even's frustration (she wanted to go too!).   The next day, Even practices her magic intently, and does a really nice job turning herself into a skunk.  But then she can't turn herself back...

It isn't Even's fault.  Magic has fritzed out along the boarder, leaving magical customers unable to pass back through the local gateway to Firoth.  This is something of a problem for the customers, as the glamours allowing them to pass as ordinary don't work anymore either.  Even and Odd, along with Jeremy, a young unicorn customer, head out to the next nearest gate to see if it still works.  When they find it's still in place, Even convinces the other two to cross through.  Jeremy, who wasn't supposed to have gone shopping in the mundane world, is anxious to get home to his family, and agrees.  And Odd goes along with the other two, because of course her mother is stuck in Firoth.

And so the three of them find themselves successfully in Firoth...but that was the last gasp for this particular gate.  Firoth is a disaster area.  Whole chunks of landscape, including the homes of Jeremy's herd, have been reshaped and moved around.  Dangerous creatures that were once far away now aren't anymore.  With no way home, Even (still en-skunked) and Odd are determined to find out what's going on (and find their mother) and Jeremy is willing to help (especially once he has made peace with his parents...).   

When they do find out what's going on, there's no easy fix, even when they find their mom.  But there's more to Even than just every-other-day magic and occasional skunk smell, and Odd has more magical ability than she gives herself credit for.  And few things cause more of a diversion than a young unicorn when he sets his mind to making mayhem, and since unicorns can't lie, there's no better person to convince people that the dangerous plot you've uncovered is real (I am overusing parenthesis, I know, but just as an aside--Jeremy is the sort of young unicorn who gets flustered by public speaking, and babbles.  It's lovely to see Odd working with him to get his public presentation out).  

Although Even and Odd can certainly be enjoyed by readers of all ages (raises hand), I think it's primary readers will be kids 8-10, who devoured all the magical animal rescue type books last year, and who are ready to move on to something more substantial.  The plot is straightforward, and the world building is full of fun fantasy details.  And since Odd and Even are seeing Firoth for the first time too, with Jeremy the young unicorn as their local guide, the reader never gets lost in unexplained territory.  On top of that, there's lots of humor; kids will grin a lot while reading this!  

That being said, the perceptive reader will pick up on deeper layers.  There are challenges faced by victims of the magical boarder turmoil, including refugees (indeed, were-wolves might not be the neighbors you want, but they couldn't help it) and a population of mermaids cut off from their home river and so in danger of starving to death. The bad guy tries to justify her actions by a unilateral declaration that they are for the greater good, and Even in particular has to come to terms with the sharing of the sisters' magic.  But the overall impression remains one of whimsical fun.

In short, this book feels like ice cream on a hot summer's day, hitting the spot just like it's supposed to! And now I am off to Amazon to give it five stars for doing what it set out to to do just right.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. Wow. You make this sound like a real winner and lots of fun. Thanks for such a thorough review.

  2. You and Mrs. Yingling both recommending this have moved it up my TBR (but the unicorn who babbles would make me read it anyway!)


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