Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

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Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October 2017

When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially¬†The Witches). I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up, but the writing style and illustration style brought me back to intermediate school when I was gobbling these books up.

This is the story of a world where there are two main “tribes,” the warriors and wizards. There was a war where witches were removed from the face of the earth. (witches are not what we think of with broomsticks and hats. These witches are monsters). The wizards control the magic and the warriors control the iron and the groups stay away from each other. We are challenged in the book to find the “unseen” narrator and figure out how they fit in the story. (I have my suspicions, but we’ll see as the series progresses ūüėČ )

Our story follows 2 characters, Xar (a wizard who hasn’t gotten his magic yet and will do ANYTHING to make it happen) and Wish (a warrior who has found a magical object). Both characters don’t fit in in their communites. Xar is trying to catch a witch, even though everyone knows all the witches are dead. He’s hoping he can steal some of it’s magic (knowing full well that he will be cursed forever). Wish has found a magical spoon and a magic sword that says, “There once were witches, but I killed them…”

Wish goes for a walk with her bodyguard and is captured by Xar. It turns out that he has found a feather with some witch blood on it. Some of the blood drops on Xar and his sprite Squeezjoos. It turns out it didn’t affect Xar, but it is affecting Squeezjoos. He will die or turn evil if he can’t get rid of the blood. Wish informs them that her mother, Queen Sychorax has a stone that takes away magic. Can they break into the warrior’s fort to save Squeezjoos? What’s going on with the witches? Are they back? Read to find out!


“That’s the problem with adventures. They bring out parts of you that you never knew were there.” (p. 201)

“The trouble with stories is: you have to know what they mean.” (p. 295)

“Actions have consequenses, you must pay the price of making amends, and some things happen that cannot unhappen.” ¬†(p. 319)

“This isn’t the dark ages you know…’ (well it was, actually, but nobody ever thinks they are living in the dark ages)” (p.327)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.



Book Review: Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson, Illustrated by Tom Mead

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Published by Workman Publishing Group in 2015.

It is refreshing to see an author be so transparant in their research for fiction books. Folklore and oral history have woven a beautiful background for cryptozoology. Inspired by Henry H. Tryon’s¬†Fearsome Critters,¬†Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods tells of 20 creatures from American folklore. Budding cryptzoologists will not only love the stories that Johnson tells, they will love Mead’s illustrations and hidden glowing monsters.

Each story is told in first person perspective, with the narrator telling the reader of his interactions with 20 creatures. These are written in a conversational tone with a story of someone’s interaction with each creature.¬†From the menancing hodag to the curious billdad, to the adorable wapaloosie. Each creature has a unique story that will thrill readers!

Great for a readaloud or to recommend to students!

FTC disclaimer: I recieved this book through interlibrary loan. I recieved no compensation for this review.

Book Review: House of Secrets

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini


Published by Balzer and Bray in 2013

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is…The Walker family has fallen on hard times. They have been kicked out of their home and are househunting. They find a mansion¬†that is the same price as their apartment. This mansion used to belong to a famous author. The kids start seeing an old lady around.

The kids, Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia, keep their suspicions to themselves.Then the old lady comes in and introduces herself as the famous author’s daughter. Then she changes into the “Wind Witch.” The kids and the house are sent into three of the author’s books. They have to avoid savages, hide from giant animals, fight pirates, and try and find the Book of Doom and Desire. The Wind Witch has told them that she will not send them back into the real world until they find it. In order to find it, they have to indulge their selfish desires. The kids realize that the Wind Witch cannot have it, and have to try and find a way home without giving the book to the witch.

This book may intimidate teens because of it’s length, but it hooks readers quickly and keeps them interested with TONS of action.

Book Review: Copper Gauntlet

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

copper gauntlet

Published by Scholastic Press in 2015.

After the intense ending of¬†The Iron Trial, I had so many kids excited about this series. They wanted to break down my library doors to get a copy of this. I finally got a chance to read this! and I’m agree with the kids!

After leaving the Magesterium, Callum Hunt is not happy to be at home. He’s convinced that his father knows that Costantine Madden’s soul lives in Call’s body. After an unsettling discovery, Call runs away to spend the rest of the summer with Tamera and Aaron.

Once they go back to school, Call’s father is accused of stealing the Alkahest, a device that can seperate mages and their magic. Call teams up with Tamera, Aaron, and (unfortunately) Jasper. After meeting with some hippie mages who study chaos animals, and being chased by elementals, our heroes meet back up with Master Jasper.

This series is a must have for every middle grade library!¬†This story is fast paced, and action packed. I know that when I read it, I imagined that the authors were spending time at a bar and were participating in¬†a thought exercise. “What if Harry Potter knew about the evil within himself thoughtout the whole story?” Then they crafted a story with a main character with an evil being’s soul embedded in him, and gave him a band of loyal friends and send him to magic school. This story has it’s own voice and it’s own path. But once you see the comparison, it’s hard to unsee.

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

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Published by Random House Children’s Book in 2014.

Piper lives in Scrap town 16 eeking out a living repairing whatever falls during a meteor shower. Her father died a few years ago and she just does enough to survive. Her friend Micah sneaks out during a meteor storm and she rushes out to make sure he isn’t harmed. They watch a caravan get hit my a meteor and Piper goes to see if there are any survivors. She takes an injured Anna to her home to help her heal. Just when she thought they were safe, a man comes in looking for Anna. The man gives Anna and Piper a bad feeling, so they go on the run.

mark of dragonfly charactersPiper notices that Anna has the mark of the dragonfly on her, the mark given to the King’s inner circle. She realizes that she has to get Anna to the castle to get her to safety. They sneak on the train that runs shipments to the capital, the 401. Unfortunatly, the train has defenses to prevent people from stowing away. They get on the train, dodge the razor blades, and flames about to come out of the vent, when they stop. They are stopped by a mysterious green-eyed guard. Just as they are about to be thrown off the train, Piper shows the guard Anna’s tattoo. Gee, the guard, gives them a room and they begin their journey.

The mysterious man who we later learn is Doloman, continues to purse Anna. Piper  teams up with the crew members of the 401, Jeyne, Gee, and Trimble to keep Anna safe. Along the way, we learn that there is more to every person that meets the eye.

Book Review: The Colossus Rises

The Colussus Rises by Peter Lerangis

Colussus Rises

Published by HarperCollins in 2013.

Jack wakes up one morning to find an odd marking on the back of his head. He notices that he’s been feeling ill and starts noticing odd things. Suddenly, he’s in the hospital, seriously ill. Two men help him and he blacks out.

He wakes up on a mysterious island. He realizes he is at the Karai Institute, and without the medical care of Professor Bhegad, he and others will die when they turn 14, (in 6 months). With Bhegad’s care, he and the other kids will become super humans. In order to survive, Jack, Cass, Marco, and Aly must find Loculuses hidden within the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Jack and his new friends are suspicious of Bhegad and the Karai Institute (KI). They understand the delicate balance that they are in, but don’t know if KI is being completely openly and honest. Also, Jack, Cass, Marco, and Aly aren’t quite sure that they trust each other.

This book is fast paced that keeps the reader guessing. Some students may not be familar with the mythology associated with Atlantis and the Seven Wonders, but it’s great for students to expand their interests within fantasy.

Book Review: The Shepard’s Crown

The Shepard’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

shepard's crown

Published by Harper in 2015

*Note: This book was in draft form when Sir Terry Pratchett passed. The afterword mentions that this book was completed, but still in draft form. . Some critics said that it missed some of the layers that his other books had, but I enjoyed it.

Esme Weatherwax has always been the undisputed head witch. Throughout the earlier Tiffany Aching books, she has helped guide our young hero in the right direction. Unfortunately, Granny Weatherwax’s time is up. Death comes for her and Tiffany is willed her cottage. Tiffany still feels the committment to her hills, so she is running her rear off bouncing between the Chalk and Granny’s cottage.

In the realm of fairy, the fairy¬†court feels the power vacuum created by the death of the head witch. The Fairy Queen is content to enjoy her realm. Some members of her court, Lord Peasebottom in particular, think she’s being weak and want to invade the land of the humans while the head witch is gone. This group succeeds in their takeover of the fairy court. The Fairy Queen is thrown out of her realm and left on the doorstep of the Feegles. ( a group of little blue men who are bound to help Tiffany since she served as her Kelda for a few days earlier in the series). The Feegles hate fairies, but before they kill her, they take her to Tiffany. Tiffany tells the Feegles that they cannot kill this fairy, but they can guard her closely and learn about what is to come. Tiffany tells the fairy that she needs something to call her. The fairy states that her name is Nightshade.

Across the Chalk, a young man named Geoffrey is realizing that he needs to leave home. He ends up in the employ of Tiffany.

Meanwhile, Tiffany is driving herself mad balancing two steadings. Everyone is trying to be patient, but they are getting frustrated.

Nightshade continues to stay with Tiffany, learning about the human ways. The witches sense that the fairy horde is coming to attack the human world. The witches team up to organize to figure out how to defeat this terror.

After teaming up and planning, the witches divide up. Half go to the Chalk, half go to Lancre to prepare to take on the elves. The witches battle the fair folk. After a hard fought battle, the fairies leave the land of the humans. Tiffany wills the Lancre cottage to Geoffery and builds her own cottage on the Chalk.

I really enjoyed the fact that Tiffany has to learn about delegating and balancing her work. Some kids with Tiffany’s personality tend to play the matryr and there is no reason for them to.

Memorable quotes: “I don’t know much about the world, not much; but in my part of the world I could make little miracles for ordinary people…and I never wanted the world-just a part of it, a small part that I could keep safe, that I could keep away from storms. Not the ones of the sky, you understand: there are other kinds.”

“It seems to me, girls, that it goes like this. We fight the elves at every turn, and they is always comin’ back. Perhaps it might be a good thing? To keep us on our toes, to stop us from gettin’ lazy. To put us on the anvil, so that we remembers how to fight. And at the end of time, living¬†is about fightin’ against everything.”