December 17, 2011

Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts

By John Flanagan
Rating: 4 stars

Flanagan spins off of his very successful Ranger's Apprentice series by introducing us more closely to the Skandians, most particularly Hal, who is half-Araluen and always been a bit of an outcast due to his half-breed status.  Hal is a thinker and an inventor and is mentored by Thorn, his dead father's best friend.  However, when Hal begins brotherband training, where all Skandians learn how to work as a team to be recruited into wolfship fighting crews, he still ends up in the small group of other outcast kids.  But as training  begins, the group learns how to use their strengths to outwit the bigger and bolder brotherband teams.  This story is mainly to learn about the 8 members of the brotherband because by the end of the book, this group is faced with an overwhelming challenge that it will take many more books in the series to tackle.  Filled with plenty of action, readers who liked the Ranger's Apprentice series will be more than happy to meet Hal, Stig and all their friends and to set off on new adventures with them.

November 14, 2011

The Silver Bowl

By Diane Stanley
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

In this fascinating story,  Molly has inherited her mother's gift of seeing visions of the future.  Before she is sent off to work at the castle as a young girl, her mother warns her to never share her gift with anyone else or fear being cast as a witch or worse.  Molly fits in as a kitchen maid over the years, earning a solid place and friends in Tobias and Winifred. Like the others, she laughs off the thought that the royal family is cursed, even if some do die of somewhat unnatural causes. But when she is chosen to polish the silver, she ends up working on an intricate silver hand basin that begins to tell her of visions from the past which show that the bowl is truly full of curses aimed at the royal family.  When the entire family is together for a wedding, Molly is helpless when a pack of wolves burst into the room, intent on destroying the king and all his descendents.  But Molly, with the help of Tobias, manages to save one of the princes.  Now, they are on the run for where can they take the wounded prince?  Where is safe from a killing curse?  Readers will love plucky Molly and also the adventure her life takes her on.  A rollicking fantasy-adventure.

November 08, 2011

The Princess Curse

By Merrie Haskell
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Reveka is working as an apprentice herbalist at the castle and wants nothing more than to have her own herbary at a convent somewhere someday. But to do that she needs money and the best money to be had is if she can figure out a way to break the curse on the 12 princesses.  No one knows how, but every night their shoes are in tatters and anyone who has attempted to spend the night in their room either disappears or falls into a slumber from which they can’t awake.  Then comes the day Reveka is able to create an invisibility cap that truly works, and she finds out the secret of the princesses…but is there an easy way to break the curse after all?  Readers who know The 12 Dancing Princesses will find similar elements but enjoy the twist on the fairy tale and may hope for a sequel.  A very enjoyable fantasy.

September 24, 2011

13 Curses

By Michelle Harrison
 Rating: 4 1/4 stars

This is the follow up to the very good 13 Treasures. We begin where we left off, with Red having entered the fairy realm, intent on finding her baby brother that was stolen by fairies. It isn't long before she is captured, but help comes in the form of Stitch, another human brought inadvertently into the fairy world. Stitch also knows all about fairies and their dark side--we know him as Warwick, the groundskeeper of Elvesden Manor and Fabian's father from the first book. Red and Stitch join forces to confront the fairies about getting Red's brother back. But the fairies don't let anything happen easily. They give Red a task--an almost impossible task--that she is going to need her old friends Tanya and Fabian to help her with. And that task is going to make Red have to face some facts she wasn't expecting. This dark-edged story is just as interesting and compelling as the first one and fans will be more than pleased.

August 30, 2011

Septimus Heap: Darke

By Angie Sage
Rating: 4 stars

This is book 6 in the Septimus Heap series.  Septimus is back, and this time, he is due for his Darke magic training.  But before he can even begin, the Darke comes to meet him!  Merrin Meredith, with the help of an evil ring, has created a Darke Domaine and is bent on destroying everyone in the Castle.  Septimus, along with Marcia, Marcellus, Jenna, Beetle and even estranged brother Simon all battle together to defeat the Darke.  Like other books in the series, there are lots of different plotlines and lots and lots of characters and everyone has to work together to win the day.  As ever, the wandering plot is fun to read and fans will be satisfied with the latest installment.  Although some may be wondering how the series will end...if it ever does!

Ranger's Apprentice: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

By John Flanagan
Rating: 4 stars

Flanagan wraps up his 10 book Ranger's Apprentice series with a nod to the ancient culture of Japan.  Will, Alyss, Halt and Evanlyn head out to the country of Nihon-Ja when they get word that their friend Horace who has been staying there on a diplomatic mission has gone missing.  The Emperor's main adversary has gone rogue and the emperor flees for his life with a small army and Horace along for the ride to an old fortress in the mountains.  Of course, our ranger friends arrive and begin whipping the ragtag group into shape for the battle of their lives once spring arrives.  It has all the camaraderie and humor and plotline of previous entries in the series, and fans will be happy to see their favorite characters back in action.  Since it was the series finale, some might wish for a little more emotional content, but overall we'll all be sad to say farewell to this series. 

June 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles

By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Elodie is on her way, by herself, to the city of Two Castles with the hopes of apprenticing to the mansioners (actors), although her parents think she is off to become a weaver.  Two Castles boasts an ogre who lives in one castle, a dragon, and a king and princess, as well as many many cats.  But when Elodie finds that her grand plans of becoming a mansioner apprentice are dashed, the dragon Meenore offers to take her on as an assistant.  And almost immediately, Elodie and Meenore are visited by the ogre himself, Count Jonty Um, whom Meenore has deduced is in danger of his life from the townsfolk and perhaps others.  The dragon sends Elodie as a servant to the count's castle in hopes that her eyes and ears may pick up clues to who may wish the count harm.  Elodie is quickly impressed by the kindness of Count Jonty Um and his ability to shapeshift into other animals so when the king announces the princess is to marry the count, she is pleased for him.  But when he is forced at a feast to shift into a mouse and the cats chase him, Elodie fears the worst.  Is the count still alive?  And who signaled the normally well-trained cats to attack?  Elodie, with the help of Meenore, try their best to solve the mystery, but it may cost one of them their life.   A fantasy-mystery hybrid that is highly enjoyable and, one hopes, is the start of a series of cases to solve.

June 13, 2011

Princess of Glass

By Jessica Day George
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

If you like fairy tale retellings, you will love this book!  George follows up her retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses which was titled Princess of the Midnight Ball and picks up a different sister of the twelve, Poppy.  After the many years of strife caused by the evil underground lord, the king decides to send out his daughters as goodwill ambassadors to neighboring lands.  Poppy has ended up in Breton and so has the handsome Prince Christian from the Danelaw.  Poppy won't dance and won't talk about the mysterious happenings from her past--what is done is done, she hopes.  But then the hapless servant Eleanor enters her life--a noble girl fallen on hard times.  And Poppy starts to glimpse the possibility of magic--evil magic--surrounding Eleanor and her actions.  When Christian and some others seem to be falling under a spell, too, Poppy knows she needs to take action and fast.  What can one princess far from home do to save everyone from ruin?  Based loosely on Cinderella, readers will eat this up and be eager for more.  Let's hope George has more stories with more sisters up her sleeve.

May 23, 2011


By Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Rating: 4 stars

It is when fraternal twins Jaide and Jack turn 12 that everything goes wrong.  A mysterious and seemingly magical disturbance destroys their house and they are packed off to go live with Grandma X--a relative they have never even met but who sent them a letter naming them "troubletwisters."  Grandma X's house is full of strange items, including a door that appears and disappears, cats that talk, and hot chocolate that seems to erase memories.  The only thing Jaide and Jack can agree on is that maybe they should get away from what seems to be a witch-like grandmother.  But it is then that the Gifts of the troubletwisters kick in, and evil creatures chase the twins full out, ending in Jack's capture.  Then Grandma X has to explain the role of the Wardens against the endless Evil.  But can they rescue Jack and stop the Evil in its tracks this time?  Fans of fantasy adventures will be more than pleased by the beginning of this new series and be eagerly looking out for the next installment.  Good stuff!

April 20, 2011

The Grimm Legacy

By Polly Shulman
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Just imagine that there was a lending library in New York that didn't lend books or movies or magazines.  Instead you can borrow period clothing, shoes, and antique artifacts.  When Elizabeth is recommended by her teacher to become a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository, she is thrilled.  But as she makes a few friends among the other pages (including her school's cute basketball star, Marc), she learns there are even more unusual things in the collection, particularly the Grimm Collection.  The Grimm Collection holds magical items that we all know from their fairy tales--like the magic mirror from Snow White or the slippers from the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  But someone has been stealing items from the collection, and replacing them with fakes.  Elizabeth can't tell who the thief might be.  Could it be Marc? Anjali?  Aaron?  Or one of the librarians?  Then the mystery deepens when Anjali disappears.  Was she kidnapped?  And what can a few library pages with access to a magical collection do to help?  This is a very entertaining mix of fantasy and mystery that will keep readers interested from beginning to end and wishing there really was a collection like this one to borrow from.

March 29, 2011


By Cornelia Funke
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

If you like your fantasy dark and twisted, you'll love this book.  Jacob's father is missing and it is when Jacob is poking around his office that he discovers there is way through the mirror into an entirely different world: Mirrorworld.  So Jacob begins to live two lives: one in our world with his brother Will and mother and the other as a treasure hunter in the dark and dangerous but thrilling Mirrorworld.  Then comes the day that Will follows him in...and something terrible happens.  He is infected with a dark curse that is turning his skin into stone and making him become part of the race of Goyls--a stone-skinned people who are waging war on the humans.  Even worse, the Dark Fairy who consorts with the Goyl king particularly wants Will because his skin is turning to jade--and there is a legend about the Jade Goyl who will protect the king from death.  So it becomes a race--can Jacob find a way to stop the stone from creeping through Will's skin before the Dark Fairy finds him and uses him for her own purposes?  And can Will's girlfriend Clara and Jacob's companion Fox help?  The story is fast-paced and full of dark magic and hard choices, and fans of this kind of plot will be drawn in.  Fans of Funke's InkWorld series will find much to like in this book. 

March 17, 2011

The Night Fairy

By Laura Amy Schlitz
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Flory is a night fairy, meaning she comes out to fly and eat and play in the evenings, and her magic grows strongest then as well.  But when she is but 3 months old (fairies are on their own just days after they are born), a bat accidentally mistakes Flory for a moth and bites her wings, rendering her unable to fly.  Flory crashes down in the garden of a giant (AKA human) and finds an abandoned birdhouse to hide in.  It is then she decides to become a day fairy instead.  Now without wings, this rather vain and selfish fairy must learn how to escape the dangers all around her while learning how to survive in the daytime.  It is a fast-moving story, and readers will think twice about what they might be seeing in their own gardens.  A well-written, quick fantasy about a bit of a darker side to a fairy's life.  Good reading!

January 24, 2011


By Robin McKinley
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

In this slow-paced fantasy, Sylvi is the only princess and fourth in line to the throne.  In their country, all royal family members are bound to the wonderful pegasi with whom they made a treaty when the humans first arrived in the country.  The pegasi were willing to have the humans help defend them from the evil creatures like rocs and taralians and meanwhile the presence of the pegasi helped make their valley an especially fruitful place.  The one drawback is that humans and pegasi can't really speak to one another, so they make do with the magicians, who interpret the conversations, and with basic sign language developed for the purpose.  But when Sylvi goes to be bound at the age of 12 to Ebon, she discovers she and Ebon CAN speak in their minds!  Fluently, clearly.  But immediately this is seen as a threat to the power of the magicians by the head magician Fthoom and Sylvi makes an enemy before she can blink.  But having a pegasus for a real friend, one you can talk to, is marvelous--and even more marvelous is when Sylvi gets to be the very first human invited to visit the pegasi's country and see their mystical Caves.  But Sylvi soon learns being the first brings with it great responsibility--and also, great troubles.  Can she and Ebon rise above?  Be warned: this is the first of a two book series and it ends on a cliffhanger of a unhappy situation.  If you love a rollicking fantasy adventure, don't pick up this book.  But if you like steady world-building with parallels to politics and religion, you might like this one.

January 03, 2011

No Such Thing As Dragons

By Philip Reeve
Rating: 4 stars

At first, you may think this is a straightforward story.  Dragonslayer Brock takes on young, mute Ansel as a servant as he goes off seeking dragons to slay.  But since Ansel can't speak, Brock tells him the big secret--there are no such things are dragons.  Brock merely brings back fake evidence as though he HAS killed them.  But one day, Brock and Ansel climb far up into the mountains to slay a dragon and find a girl who has been tied up there by the villagers as a sacrifice to it.  She swears there IS a dragon.  And soon, the little group discover that the myth is real.  But that's just the beginning of what happens next!  This is exciting, a bit bloody, and will end completely differently than you thought it would.  Check it out!