December 22, 2008


By Frances Hardinge
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

What if you took money out of a wishing well, spent it, and then had to grant the wishes that were attached to those coins? That is the situation three friends find themselves in when the spirit of the well visits them and informs the trio that they need to find the wishers and grant their wishes. To accomplish this, she gives them each a power: charming Josh can control things made of metal or electricity, timid, talkative Chelle is able to voice the thoughts of a wisher out loud, and insightful Ryan grows eyes on his hand that allow him to see things differently. At first they view their tasks as impossible, but when they start to figure out wish-granting, they are feeling as good as angels...until things begin to go wrong. The wishes don't come true like they think; in fact, they start to turn out very badly indeed. And as Ryan starts to uncover the truth behind the spirit in the well, he realizes that getting what you wished for may be one of the worst things that could happen to you. But how can you detach yourself from a maniacal magic spirit? And what if some of your friends don't want to? This is an excellent twist on wishing well magic, with plenty of spookiness, adventure, and thoughtful philosophy behind what wishes really are. Readers will be drawn right into this world, where the ordinary and magical live side by side, and will be thrilled by the plot twists. Top notch!

December 15, 2008

The Unnameables

By Ellen Booraem
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

In this genre-defying story, Medford Runyuin is an orphan being raised on the Island, a community that chooses to live much like older more Puritanical times, without electricity or modern conveniences. Names are important on the Island, for they identify who or what something is, and only useful things are named. 13 year old Medford is anxious for he is hiding something under his bed--items that cannot be viewed as useful, items that could be proved unnameable. And harboring unnameable items could lead to banishment from the colony. But everything changes when the Goatman appears on Medford's porch. This creature that defies the rules of known beings makes Medford think to maybe, just maybe, challenge the rules of his own society. But can he make a society built on hundreds of years of nearly unchanged rules see things differently? Or will he be banished to become an unnameable? This is a great read, both interesting and exciting, and readers will be propelled quickly to the satisfying ending. Fans of Lois Lowry's The Giver will find much to like here.

October 29, 2008


By Robin McKinley
Rating: 4 1/2 stars

In this quietly compelling fantasy, the quiet beekeeper Mirasol has lately been named as Chalice, the one who helps bind and calm the earthlines on the manor. The earthlines affect all of nature in their realm. Usually the Chalice has been an apprentice for years, but after the sudden deaths of both Willowlands' Master and Chalice, there was no one to take up the mantle and the earthlines are unsettled. But as Mirasol struggles to learn about and fulfill her new role, it is nothing compared to the new Master. He has been recalled from seven years training as an Elemental priest of Fire and is no longer quite...human. But with the help of her bees and honey, Mirasol begins to get her feet under her and to slowly win the respect of the manor's people. But everyone still seems to fear the Master, and when a shocking challenge is made to his right to hold the manor, Mirasol realizes she has to choose who to support and who to save. Ultimately, someone must be sacrificed to save Willowlands...but who shall it be? Deeply rooted in nature and lovingly written, readers will sympathize with Mirasol and be drawn into the characters and the hard decisions they must make to do what is right, even if they may fail. Good stuff! Fans of McKinley's other works will not be disappointed.

October 21, 2008


By Cornelia Funke
Rating: 4 3/4 stars

The long awaited final book in the Inkworld trilogy was well worth the wait. In this final installment, the evil Adderhead has taken over Ombra now that he has the White Book that makes him immortal. Dustfinger is dead, and Meggie has read the creepy Orpheus to Inkworld to try and bring him back for Farid's sake, but Orpheus is more interested in writing and reading treasures and fanciful things to fill his pockets with gold. Meanwhile Mo has become the outlaw Bluejay, in league with the Black Prince, and is constantly hunted even while the gang does as many good deeds as they can for the poor and harried population. Now it is Mo who does not want to return to the world that he left, and Resa and Meggie fear they have lost him to the character of the Bluejay. But all cannot be black. Dustfinger does return and the Adderhead's daughter Violante offers Mo a bargain. She will take him in protective custody and arrange to meet her father at her mother's old castle to hand him over and in return, he will kill the Adderhead so that she can rule Ombra. But even the best laid plans can go awry, especially with the maliciously smooth tongue of Orpheus changing the storyline. The Black Prince, the robbers, and many of the gang are on the run from the Adder's men, Resa tries to take matters into her own hands, and overlooked characters can end up saving the day. There is not enough time to unravel all of the plot threads in a simple review, but fans of the first two books will barely be able to put this hefty tome down as every road is filled with twists and turns. Room for a sequel is generously left open, and perhaps we shall thrill to new adventures some day. But for now, thumbs up for a fabulous ending.

September 03, 2008

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

By Jessica Day George
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

There seems to be an unending trend to rewrite fairy tales but I'm not complaining about this fresh version of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. "Lass" is the last child of a woodcutter in the endless winter of the North country, whose disappointed mother doesn't even give her a name. Lass is an uncomplaining child, devoted to her father and her eldest brother Hans Peter, who returned troubled and aged from his travels abroad. But when the lass saves the fabled white reindeer from hunters, it grants her both a name and the ability to understand and speak to animals. This power one night brings to the door a giant isbjorn, a polar bear, who tells the lass if she will come to live with him for one year, it will break an enchantment. He promises her family wealth if she says yes. Eager to help her family and the isbjorn, the lass agrees and he takes her to live in a fabulous ice palace. Slowly she begins to try and uncover what the enchantment of the isbjorn truly means and discovers more than she would like about trolls, magic, the cost of curiousity, and the true measure of courage. Readers will readily recognize elements from the more familiar Beauty and the Beast if they don't know East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Regardless, this is a well told tale of a strong heroine that will delight readers of fantasy and magic.

August 26, 2008


By Angie Sage
Rating: 4 stars

This is book 4 in the Septimus Heap series. Continuing where we left off in the 3rd book, Physik, Septimus and Jenna are determined to rescue their brother Nicko and Snorri from where they got stuck in the past. Jenna is particularly upset. But as the pair, with the help of friend Beetle, try to find a way into the past, a darke force is moving against Septimus. Merrin, the boy who was mistaken for Septimus for years, is back seeking revenge. With the help of a Darke spell, a Thing, and the ghost of Tertius Fume, Merrin gets Septimus sent on a Queste--which no apprentice has come back from once it has been accepted. Septimus keeps his Queste hidden from the others as long as possible. The trio receive help from Marcellus Pye in the shape of a map and writing from Nicko and Snorri when they set out to find the House of Foryx where all times meet. The three immediately decide to try to find the House of Foryx themselves to rescue Nicko and Snorri. As their journey starts, we run across many of our favorite characters and places, from Alther to Spit Fyre to Marcia to the witches in the wood to Sam Heap and many more. It is an exciting adventure, fraught with danger and magyk, and fans will be happy with the fast pace. And for a change, our story has...dare I say...a happy ending with no immediate cliffhanger. Another enjoyable installment. A fifth book, Syren, is planned for 2009.

August 11, 2008

The Last of the High Kings

By Kate Thompson
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Fans of The New Policeman will rejoice to read this companion novel. Jenny, the daughter of the famous musical Liddy family, is different. She can't concentrate in school and prefers to wander the hills and spends time talking to a puka--a magical creature who disguises himself as a white goat. The puka wants her to spend time befriending a ghost--a young man who has been attached to guarding a local beacon for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, Jenny's father, J.J. and his wife Aisling are at odds. J.J. had once visited Tir na n'Og and has become world famous as a violinist as a result, but that has left Aisling with the chore of raising 4 children practically by herself. If only Aengus Og of the fairy folk had kept his bargain about the chiming wood....can J.J. force him to finally give him what is due? And Donal, their son, is drawn to an elderly neighbor man named Mikey who claims to be the last of the high kings and Mikey says he needs to make it up to the beacon. What does the puka really want? What bargain did J.J. make with Aengus? And why does an old man need to climb to the top of the beacon? These three plot threads will wind together to a satisfying conclusion. Full of Irish folklore and music, readers will be happily drawn into the story.

July 31, 2008


By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 stars

Olus is a new god of Akka, a god of the winds. Restless, he is fascinated by mortals, those "soap bubbles" that do not last that the other gods mainly ignore. Olus decides to go and live among the mortals as a goatherd, and ends up watching a particular family with a daughter named Kezi who is both skilled at knotting rugs and dancing. Olus begins to fall in love with Kezi and then tragedy strikes. Kezi's mother becomes very ill and her father makes an oath to their god, Admat, that if he makes her well, the next person to congratulate him will be sacrificed to the god. When a beloved aunt forces her way into the house, in desperation Kezi chooses to sacrifice herself. Now poor Kezi has one month to live and Olus can't stand it. He reveals himself to her as a god with a plan--if she can become a heroine and he can become a champion, she may be able to win a spot among the gods and become immortal. But can they face their worst fears for a chance at immortality? An interesting story of love and sacrifice and the truth behind the gods, told from both Kezi and Olus' point of view in alternating chapters. Fans of fantasy and of this author will be pleased with this story.

July 17, 2008

The New Policeman

By Kate Thompson
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

In this fascinating tale, J.J. Lyddie is a descendent of an Irish family who have been playing music for generations. Despite his family keeping up the musical traditions, J.J. and everyone else is feeling like there just isn't enough time in a day to do everything that needs doing. When his mother asks for more time as a birthday gift, J.J. vows to try and buy some time for her. Little does he know that he is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. When a neighbor reveals that there is a time leak between our world and Tir na n'Og, the land of eternal youth, she shows J.J. how to enter that land and sets him the task of trying to find the leak. For if it doesn't stop, our time will keep leaking away into the land of the fairies, then neither world will exist as it should be. Can J.J. find the leak in Tir na n'Og and help save both worlds? To do so, he will have to meet fairies and gods and navigate a world he thought only existed in fairy tales. This is a quick paced and very enjoyable fantasy, brimful of Irish music and legend. A companion story, The Last of the High Kings, is also available to fans.

July 07, 2008

Dragon Moon

By Carole Wilkinson
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

This is the last book in the Dragon Keeper trilogy. At the end of the last book, The Garden of the Purple Dragon, Ping had escaped with baby dragon Kai to the Princess' kingdom. As this book opens, they have happily been living there for a year, but Ping realizes it is time to move on and find the dragon haven that Danzi, Kai's father, wanted them to reach. Ping discovers on the piece of silk that Danzi left clues to the haven, and soon she and Kai set off on an adventure across the Empire. Good and bad befalls the pair, and they find friends and enemies alike. Jun, the boy from the last story who had posed as a dragon keeper, appears to help out Ping and make amends for his behavior. Then they find the dragon haven--only to find it deserted, with dragon bones littered across it. Dragon hunters had been there and the haven was no longer safe. So they press onwards, only to discover word of yet another haven. Can a girl and a young dragon find someplace no one knows exists? And will wild dragons let them live there? This is a fitting end to this unusual trilogy, which takes place in ancient China. Fantasy and adventure lovers alike will enjoy this whole series.

June 11, 2008

Garden of the Purple Dragon

By Carole Wilkinson
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

This is book two in the Dragon Keeper series. Ping is the Imperial Dragon Keeper. In her first adventure, she helped Danzi, the last dragon in the empire, to escape the palace and journey to the sea. Danzi taught her much and left her with his newly hatched dragon son while he flew to the Isle of Blest to live. Danzi wanted his son Kai to live in freedom, so Ping is in hiding while learning the hard way to raise a baby dragon. But the necromancer she once outwitted is back, eager to kidnap Kai for his magical properties, so Ping flees again, only to end up back where she started. Captured by guards, she is again the Imperial Dragon Keeper with the young Emperor at Ming Yang Lodge. At first Ping is happy to have her Emperor friend back again. Kai likes the Emperor and Ping is learning to read with his sister, the Princess. Life is comfortable. But the Emperor becomes obsessed with finding a way to become immortal, and a dragon lives a very long life...Ping puts the pieces together too late to avoid disaster. Can she save not only herself but Kai? Another interesting fantasy adventure story set refreshingly in ancient China. Readers will be pleased to hear there is a third installment, Dragon Moon.

May 11, 2008

The Battle for Skandia

By John Flanagan
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

This is the 4th book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. We pick up where we left off in the last volume, with Will finally beginning to recover from his drug addiction after Evalyn rescued him from slavery with the help of the Skandian, Erak. The two are still in their small cabin in the mountains when spring hits, but before they can worry about moving on, Evalyn is captured by a Temujai--a race of people from the steppes who are unbeatable warriors. Will is soon in pursuit to try and rescue Evalyn. Meanwhile, Will's mentor Halt and his young warrior friend Horace are finally entering Skandia looking to rescue Will, and find the handiwork of the Temujai, so they begin to track the group. Add in Erak also tracking the Temujai and it is inevitable the three groups meet up in time to rescue Evalyn and scatter the small Temujai party. But not before Halt gets a good glimpse of the thousands who have invaded and will be heading for the Skandian capital to conquer the country. And if the Temujai take over Skandia and its access to its ships and the sea, soon they will be coming to conquer Araluen next. So our small band head for the city with the hope that Halt and his friends can convince the Skandian leader to either evacuate or fight in a whole new tactical way to try and defeat the Temujai. This book is nonstop action from beginning to end, with some development in the relationships between our young heros. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, as this is one of the better installments so far, and it could well win new fans who will go back and read from the beginning. Unlike the last couple of books, this one does not end on a cliffhanger, so readers may be able to wait a little longer for the next volume.

April 01, 2008

The Key to Rondo

By Emily Rodda
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

In this fast-moving fantasy, sensible Leo is less than pleased to find his dour cousin Mimi and her dog Mutt are coming to stay for a month. When Mimi challenges Leo to wind up the old music box he inherited more than the proscribed 3 times, magical things start to happen. The pictures painted on the music box come to life in Leo's room and then the Blue Queen appears. She tries to get Mimi to go with her, but when that fails, the Queen snatches Mutt instead and disppears into the box. There is nothing for it but to begin a quest to rescue Mutt, and Leo reluctantly tags along with Mimi into the fairy tale like world, where animals talk, gingerbread men are pests, and hidey-holes appear out of nowhere. Mimi and Leo meet both friends and enemies along the way to find the Blue Queen, and struggle with whom to trust and what to believe. Both cousins gain in confidence and understanding about themselves as they continue their dangerous quest. Will Mutt get rescued? Will Mimi and Leo find their way back home? Fantasy fans will be well pleased with this entertaining read, which doles out plenty of twists in the plot and neatly ties up the loose ends, with the possibility of sequels left open (it is projected to become a new series). You may also want to read some of Rodda's other books, like the Rowan of Rin series or the Deltora series.

March 26, 2008


By Meg Burden
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

This book is dubbed Tales of the Borderlands: Book One, so we hope it heralds the beginning of a new series. The Northland and the Southlands are in a state of open prejuidice and dislike, with Northlanders treating Southlings as though they are dirty or diseased. 16 year old Ellin is a Southling staying in the Northland capital while her father secretly teaches Northlander healers his skills to help their very ill king. Southling healing is considered to be witchcraft and is illegal. But when Ellin gets locked out of the city gates, she ends up unintentionally getting the help of one of the young princes, which gets her in to see the king. Before she knows it, Ellin is living in the castle with her father, helping to heal the king. As she befriends the other princes, she becomes aware of some kind of power in her mind that lets her hear another's thoughts. Finn and Erik, the twin princes, also have the ability. But then Ellin's father explains that this power is exactly what the Northlanders hate and fear about the Southlings, and that she must hide it at all costs. Despite helping the king, Ellin and her father are still sentenced to prison for breaking the Northlander laws, but the princes help them escape. But when the pair make it back to their home in the Southland, it is just the beginning of their trials. For the Guardians know about Ellin and her powers and they are on their way to caputre her...and another group of outcast Southlings with powers are looking to recruit her for their purposes. How will Ellin ultimately use her powers? And can her past exploits with the Northlanders help change both countries for the better? An unusual story, which is packed with plot and will keep fans of fantasy quickly turning the pages to get to the next chapter. Not much is left hanging, but it is a promising beginning for a new series.

March 06, 2008

The Garden of Eve

By K. L. Going
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Evie is resentful when her father up and moves her to Beaumont, New York to try to bring back to life a blighted orchard. Evie fiercely misses her fanciful mother, who always loved magic and stories, who recently has died of cancer. The new town is tiny, the house is old, and the orchard is right next door to a cemetary. Soon Evie notices a pale boy who inhabits the cemetary, and when she talks to him, he claims to be the ghost of a boy who just died. To add to the strangeness, Maggie, the woman who sold them the orchard on behalf of her dead brother, tells them of a curse upon the orchard. Her older sister, also named Eve, disappeared in the orchard one day, and many tales are told of the unsolved mystery. Then, to top everything off, on Evie's 11th birthday, Maggie hands her a gift from her brother--an old box that contains a seed which supposedly has come from the Garden of Eden. Evie isn't sure what to believe--is this boy Alex really a ghost? What really happened to Maggie's sister? Can this old seed really be from the Garden of Eden? All Evie knows is that a warm wind seems to blow whenever she opens the box, and she begins to imagine a glorious tree growing from the seed. She knows she has to plant it to see what happens--but can Evie believe in a world of magic when that same world robbed her of her mother? Believe it or not, all of these mysteries will be answered by the end of the book, when Evie deals with magic and reality, grief and happiness. An unusual story which effectively mixes magic into our every day world.

February 28, 2008

The Glass Word

By Kai Meyer
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

This is the 3rd book in the Dark Reflections Trilogy. The story takes up where we left off in The Stone Light. The girls Merle and Junipa, riding on the stone lion Vermithrax, escape Hell by following Winter out into the deserts of Egypt. Seth, the evil Horus priest, also escapes when he fails to kill the ruler of Hell, Lord Light. All are surprised to find the desert covered in snow and cold, courtesy of Winter, as he searches for his true love, Summer. Uneasily, the girls and lion join forces with Seth to infiltrate the Iron Eye--the fortress of the Sphinxes. Also on the way to the Iron Eye are the mermaid Eft, Serafin, Lalapeya the Sphinx, and the other boys from the guild. Once inside the Iron Eye, many secrets are revealed, including the identity of Merle's parents, the Sphinxes' plan to raise the Son of the Mother from the dead to conquer the earth as well as other worlds, and the power of the glass word which Junipa can use to pass through the mirrors. Their quest will include finding and rescuing Summer, conquering the Son of the Mother, and discovering the true nature of the Flowing Queen. With lots of action and plenty of dark overtones, fantasy and adventure readers will find much to like about the final entry in the series. But as the Flowing Queen tells Merle, this is not a fairy tale, so you cannot expect a happy ending. Enough threads are left hanging that possible other books may be written about further adventures of all our heroes. Fans of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and other heavier weight fantasy will find much to like here.

January 09, 2008

Into the Woods

By Lyn Gardner
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Fans of fairy-tale retellings will rejoice to read this entertaining fantasy/adventure. Storm, Aurora and Any(thing) Eden are three sisters living on their own in their house at Eden End. Their father is off on another of his expeditions and their mother, Zella, died after the birth of Any. Before her death, Zella gave Storm an unremarkable tin pipe with a warning to keep it safe. Suddenly, nefarious characters, including the evil Dr. DeWilde have appeared, bent on getting that same pipe. The sisters are forced to become fugitives as Dr. DeWilde and the numerous wolves he has at his command search for them. Their adventure will take them all over the map and will touch upon fairy tales like Rapunzel, the Pied Piper, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty and more. Readers will enjoy the allusions to well-known tales as well as the new twists given to them. It is only by their wits and courage that the three sisters will be able to make it through their adventure, and readers will be happy to come along for the ride. Fans of the Sisters Grimm stories (i.e. The Fairy-Tale Detectives, etc.) will find certain similarities between this book and that series, and be happily engaged. Happy ending guaranteed!