December 20, 2006


By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

The author of the excellent Ella Enchanted returns with another tale set in the same world but in the country of Ayortha instead of Kyrria. Aza was an abandoned child, adopted and raised lovingly by innkeepers. Ayorthians all sing as much as they speak--for games, healing rituals, weddings, conversation and more--and Aza has a singing voice beyond compare. She develops a skill no others can match--she can "illuse" when she sings, throwing her voice so it sounds like it is coming from other places. Unfortunately, Aza is also very large, awkward and unattractive, and this makes her miserable. Then a frequent guest at their inn, a duchess, invites Aza to go with her to the wedding of the king. Unbelievably, the new Queen Ivi seems taken with Aza, and asks her to become her lady-in-waiting. Aza is thrilled until she realizes the queen is using her, both for her ability to illuse and as a foil to her own beauty. When the king is felled by an accident and his recovery is uncertain, Ivi becomes a cruel ruler in his stead, and blackmails Aza into obedience. Aza longs to break free of Ivi, especially as she grows closer to Prince Ijori. But when Ivi accuses Aza of trying to use the queen for her own rise in power, things get out of hand. Aza is on the run--from prison and from Ivi's murderous intent. Will she be able to prove her innocence and stop Ivi before rebellion takes over the country? With a magic mirror, helpful gnomes, and a poison apple, readers may recognize allusions to Snow White, but this is certainly a more unique telling of the tale. While the narrative is not as perfectly wonderful as Ella Enchanted, this companion novel will still charm readers from start to finish.

December 16, 2006

The Thief

By Megan Whalen Turner
Rating: 5 stars
Newbery Honor
Reviewed by Noelle

In this fabulous story set in a land like ancient Greece, Gen is a thief of some repute in prison in the country of Sounis. One day, he is liberated by the magus--the main scholarly advisor to the king--in return for a favor. The magus wants Gen to steal something that has been hidden for centuries and even thought lost--Hamiathes' Gift--a stone that was said to confer rulership in the country of Eddis. The magus wants the stone for his king so that the Queen of Eddis will feel she must marry him to maintain her authority and thus unite the 2 countries--as well as give Sounis access to the next country over, Attolia. Gen, along with the magus, his 2 apprentices, and a solider named Pol, make a secret journey to a location where a hidden temple awaits the thief who can unlock its mysteries. Gen is a (mostly) willing participant on the journey because he has his own goal--to become famous far and wide as the thief who stole Hamiathes' Gift. The plot of this adventure seems fairly straightforward, but our cast of characters have different agendas and tricks hidden up their sleeves, and if you can figure out all of the plot twists, you are wiser than I am. A great story that bears careful reading (and re-reading) and will make you quickly grab the sequels, the Queen of Attolia and the King of Attolia (see reviews for both books).

December 08, 2006

Peter Pan in Scarlet

By Geraldine McCaughrean
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Kudos to author Geraldine McCaughren for winning the right to put out the first authorized Peter Pan sequel. She does Peter Pan justice here, writing in a style similar to the original story, so pure Peter Pan fans will be thrilled. Wendy, John and all of the other Lost Boys from the first story have been living the last 20 years back in London, having families and living grown up lives. But when they all begin having vivid nightmares about things gone wrong in Neverland, they decide to find a way back to find out what is wrong. When they do, the gang finds Peter Pan living on his own, and Neverland is no longer the summery place where Time stands still. Neverland is colder, the fairies are at war, the mermaids are gone. And they run across Ravello, the traveling, ravelling man, who starts to exert a powerful influence over Peter Pan, especially when Peter is wearing Captain Hook's second best scarlet coat they found on the Jolly Roger. And as the Explorers go on a quest to find Hook's treasure on top of Neverpeak, some dark secrets of Neverland are revealed, and Ravello's true nature comes to the surface. Can Peter Pan and Neverland be saved? Readers of fantasy, and especially those familiar with Neverland, will thoroughly enjoy this story. Fun!