The Chosen Prince
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2016

Author: Diane Stanley. Summary: On the day of his birth, Prince Alexos is revealed to be the long-awaited champion of Athene. He grows up lonely, conscious of all that is expected of him. But Alexos discovers that being a champion isn’t about fame and glory—it’s about sacrifice and courage. Alexos follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria, and faces the greatest challenge of his life. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The Chosen Prince is set in a fairly generic, medieval-type kingdom. There is poverty and starvation for the prince to learn from and try to better; a neighboring kingdom that is always at war on the border; peasants, nobles, and farmers. Although the specific setting that Alexos interacts with is always clear, the world in general felt a little flat and fuzzy to me. Diane Stanley may, of course, have been trying to evoke the medieval stereotype on purpose. I did like the story. Alexos is a sympathetic character, and plot took a couple of twists that I did not see coming. Content Review: Sexual content:…

The Magic Thief
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 1, 2016

Magic Thief #1. Author: Sarah Prineas. Summary: Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery’s pocket and stole the wizard’s locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Astonished and intrigued, Nevery agrees to take Conn on as his apprentice, on the condition that the boy find a locus stone of his own within a month. But with his wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who – or what – is stealing the city of Wellmet’s magic, time is running out for Conn to find his stone. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 d***, mostly people say “Curse it!” Violence: One schoolboy fight, group gets attacked by minions and wizard turns the minions into rats, boy gets knocked around once by a bodyguard, boy is arrested and chained for breaking and entering. Other Issues: Main character is a thief, pickpocket and lock-pick, and very likeable.  

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 28, 2016

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: A hero with an incredible talent…for breaking things. A life-or-death mission…to rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network…the evil Librarians. Alcatraz Smedry doesn’t seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them!…by infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutzines (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Alcatraz knows his life is ridiculous. But what can he do about it? Since the day his inheritance (a small bag of sand) showed up, things have just gotten weirder, and there’s no backing out now. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is quite a departure from Sanderson’s usual work, and the plot is clearly middle-grade. But the story’s well-written, balancing on the fine line between amusing and just silly (at least I thought so) and the sarcastic, self-aware narrator is wonderful. A little like the narrator of The Name of this Book is…

Book of Enchantments
Young Adult / August 15, 2016

Author: Patricia C. Wrede. Sumary: This short-story collection is composed of ten fantasy short stories, ranging from humorous to bitter-sweet. Unicorns, magic swords, curses, chipmunks and more populate the pages of these tales. My Thoughts: As always with short story collections, the tone and quality of individual stories fluctuates a bit. As a whole I found the book lighthearted, fun, and leaning towards the younger side of the audience. All the stories are set in a classic medieval fairy-tale setting, with the exception of two modern-day stories. Patricia has a wonderful sense of humor, keeping even the silliest stories interesting enough to hold the attention; but she is quite capable of writing a more serious fairytale, as shown in The Lorelei and The Earthwitch as well as others. My single favorite story was Stronger Than Time, a bittersweet retelling. Content Review: Sexual content: A man tries to marry his daughter off without her consent. Language: 2 d*** Violence: One rabbit is killed and eaten by werewolves. An invading army is killed wholesale, but very little description. A man cuts off his own hand.  

Ella Enchanted
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 4, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: Ella is a strong-willed, contrary girl – but if you give her an order, she’ll obey every time. She has to. Her fairy godmother gifted her with obedience at birth, and while Ella has learned to stretch the limits, in the end she must live with it. But this isn’t going to stop her from running away, taming ogres, meeting elves, and chasing down fairies to try and break the spell. And even maybe, just maybe, falling in love. My Thoughts: One of the funnest fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some girls at boarding school are mean to her, ordering her around. Some ogres tie her up and threaten to eat her. Her stepmother makes her work as a servant.  

Dread Companion
Adult / July 16, 2016

Author: Andre Norton. Summary: Kilda has always wanted to travel in space, but was unsure what career she could pursue; for the time being she has settled on governess, travelling with a fairly wealthy family to take care of the children. The two children are polite enough charges, but there’s something odd about the oldest, Bartare… When Bartare opens a doorway into another world, to follow and protect her charges Kilda will have to survive an inhuman world of old legend and law, clinging to her true nature as she searches for another door. My Thoughts: Although set in a clearly sci-fi world at the beginning, Dread Companion steps through into the world of fae. The rules were recognizable as soon as Kilda and the children appeared in the alternate world: Don’t Eat The Food, Running Water Stops Them, Don’t Trust Your Eyes, etc. This was an interesting and creative, if strange, combination of genres and formed the basis of the story. The characters were not as filled-out as they could be, and many things were never explained (as often happens in Andre Norton’s books), but overall it was good. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: There is…

Young Adult / July 14, 2016

The Leviathan Trilogy #1. Author: Scott Westerfeld. Summary: An alternate-world retelling of the beginning of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans rely on steam-driven iron machines known as Clankers. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weapons. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most powerful beast in the British fleet. My Thoughts: I enjoyed it. It’s a little slower-paced than some, but this wasn’t a problem for me. The atmosphere is clean steampunk. Both protagonists are interesting – one a midshipman on the Leviathan, a position she’s dreamed off; the other a nobleman’s son, who doesn’t quite understand the powerful forces around him, but he’s climbing rapidly out of childish innocence of the war. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: No colloquially recognized language – scattered instances of made up words recognizable as counterparts, e.g. clank, diddle, sparks. Violence: A number of airplanes are shredded by fletchetts, a flock of bats is killed by a plane, there is a sword fight and one of the fighters is killed.  

Young Adult / July 8, 2016

Monster Blood Tattoo #1. Author: D. M. Cornish. Summary: Set in the world of the Half-Continent—a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols—the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters—and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Bully beats up younger boy. Giant is killed by woman. Man is killed by small monsters, woman nearly killed but ends by killing most of them. Boy is kidnapped and tied up.

Magic by the Lake
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 3, 2016

Tales of Magic #3. Author: Edward Eager. Summary: Jane and Mark and Katharine and Martha had stopped to think, they might have ordered magic by the pound, or by the day, but a lakeful of magic causes extraordinary and unexpected events. By the end of vacation, with an unwilling sly old turtle, and Ali Baba’s forty thieves, they help stepfather Mr. Smith save his failing bookstore in a most surprising way. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Edward Eager’s books can never really grow old, with his straight-forward casual narration and the delightfully common-sense problems with magic. Not the best of his stories, but good. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Genii magically beats robbers and “bruised them black and blue”. Cannibals tie four children up and threaten to eat them.  

A Glory of Unicorns
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 11, 2016

Author: Collected by Coville. Summary: A beautiful collection of unicorn stories. Clean and sparkling for little girls, to be sure, but these are not namby-pamby rainbow pets. These unicorns blaze like fire and run like the wind, and humans who dare touch them burn and bleed, taste heartbreak and loss, and are changed forever. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Low, non-graphic.