The Fire Star, and The Wolf's Howl (Maven and Reeve, books 1 and 2), by A. L. Tait

The Fire Star and The Wolf's Howl are the first two books of a new series by Australian author,  A. L. Tait (August 2022, Kane Miller in the US), and since I'd enjoyed others of her books, I was very pleased when they arrived in the mail..  And then I was very sad when I got to the end of book 2 and there was no book 3.  Here's an image of them from the author's website (and I totally agree with the Kirkus quote!)

Two young teens--Reeve, a new squire, and Maven, the companion/servant of a noble lady==are thrown together in a castle full of secrets. When a precious jewel goes missing, they both are desperate to solve the mystery; Reeve because his new lord has told him to find it, and he's desperate not to be dismissed, Maven because the jewel was to be her ticket to freedom.  Even though it takes a while for them to trust each other, and to learn each other's secrets, they make a great team (sparks fly, mutual respect grows), and it was delightful seeing all the intrigue and deception swirling around them through their eyes.

The Wolf's Howl sends them on a journey, accompanying Reeve's lord and Maven's lady (newly married) to demesne off in the cold and windy wilds.  There they find another mystery to solve, and once again I enjoyed them doing so lots!

I just hate it when I have a really solid book comparison to offer, and then I see the clever little marketers have beat me to it-- "39 Clues meets Ranger’s Apprentice in bestselling fantasy author A. L. Tait's new medieval adventure series. "  But then I read this in my own review of Tait's earlier duology, The Ataban Cipher--"Especially recommended to younger Ranger's Apprentice fans." I am the winner, and can now say how very much Ranger's Apprentice fans might enjoy this new series--likeable, smart main characters who are clearly the good guys being brave and having adventures and solving mysteries in an alternate medieval Europe-ish sort of place.  The Ranger's Apprentice books have better food and their main characters have better fighting skills than Reeve, but Tait's books take a deeper dive into the oppression of women in a patriarchal society.  And though I'm sad to reject the food, I'll take actively subverting the patriarchy. 

Dunno about the 39 Clues comp. though...seems a bit of a stretch to me, and my elation of just a moment ago changes to disappointment as I fail to think of a better comp of my own.  I can't think of any middle grade books that have illicitly educated girls solving mysteries in medieval court settings (but with no magic, dragons or ghosts). Surely more must exist?  I shall ask twitter.

In any event, The Wolf's Howl ends up setting the next book up beautifully, and I hope I get to read it sooner rather than later.

disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher

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