"The overall likability of this series opener should secure readership for the sequel."– Kirkus Reviews
In this middle-grade fantasy sequel, Bialys’ (The Chronicles of the Virago: The Novus, 2018) heroic teens continue protecting twin infants who are destined to usher in a golden age.
Thirteen-year-old Makenna Gold is the Virago, “tasked by the forces of good” to protect her twin 14-month-old siblings, Emilyne and Noah. She’s aided by an enchanted lowrider skateboard called “the Redeemer” and three fairy mentors: Marigold Frith and Bree and Dee Delphine. One night, in the Pasadena, California, home that she shares with her parents and siblings, Makenna receives a visit from the Grim Reaper. He warns her, “You are dangerously close to being one of my clients.” The next day, she learns that her school has won the Roosevelt Meir Award, which allows the school administration to send her; her best friend, Stephen Levine; and their classmates Heather Stern, Elise Green, and Sam Taylor on a three-week educational trip to China. Parents will chaperone them, and the London-based Natasi Foundation will pay all expenses. However, it turns out that this foundation is run by the foul Sir Malvado Seaton, who will do anything to kidnap the twins. Numerous “Efflusyum decoys” throughout the world prevent Seaton from tracking Makenna and the twins’ exact location, so he plans to lure them to a place where his operative, the sinister and effective Mr. Xshun, can dispatch the Virago. Also gunning for her is Ms. Creante, a disguised Alghanii demon who’s already failed to defeat Makenna once. Thankfully, help awaits the teen at Nanjing University in the form of Tai-Pan, an Air Elemental who will train her to use the Redeemer in more advanced ways.
For this series’ second installment, Bialys deploys more bombastic wit and skillful plot twists. He provides heaping portions of weirdness—such as a talking worm named “Fluffy”—while also guiding characters through incredible transformations. Tai-Pan, a sly transplant from classic literature, is a pleasant surprise, and Mr. Xshun harbors a centuries-old secret that enables a gripping action sequence. Young genius Sam is a fun font of knowledge; for instance, he lets the other kids know that the name “Natasi” is “I Satan” backward. Stephen pitches in with his powers of clairvoyance, but the best help that Makenna receives is Tai-Pan’s advice to never “take a life in anger.” Bialys trusts his young audience to handle some graphic moments, including Ms. Creante’s demonic transformation with “her skin falling away like paper, blood seeping in pools onto the dirty pavement.” There are some religious themes; for example, “blood metal,” derived from the nails used to crucify Jesus Christ, is employed to create an “anti-weapon” to counter the Redeemer. Heather, though frequently off-page, is a memorable character when she does appear; at one point, for instance, she’s determined to go on a shopping spree, “crisis or not.” Bialys’ joy in bringing this world to life is clear and remains his greatest strength. The epic closing events lead organically to a planned third volume.
A fantasy adventure that builds thrillingly on its predecessor.
In this debut middle-grade fantasy, a girl must protect her newborn twin siblings from evil forces.
Twelve-year-old Makenna Grace Gold of the Los Angeles area can’t wait for school tomorrow. She’s trying to fall asleep but is excited about the Science Fair, where she’ll present homemade sugar crystals. Just as Makenna drifts off, a trio of fairies appears in her bedroom: cousins Bree and Dee Delphine and “Marigold Frith, Fairy Prelate.” They’ve come to initiate Makenna as The Virago, Warrior of Warriors. From braids of light and hope, they summon the Ancient Weapon, which looks like a sword as it bonds with Makenna. The girl wakes, assuming that she’s dreaming, and the fairies explain that her new brother and sister will be born tomorrow. They are hope incarnate, and Makenna must protect them against villainous forces, namely Sir Seaton, war profiteer and head of Natasi Industries. He sends his beautiful but deadly associates, Ms. Chevious and Ms. Creante, from their London headquarters to collect the twins. Luckily, Makenna can focus the power of the Ancient Weapon as she chooses, and she does so through her new lowrider skateboard. In his novel, Bialys introduces a spunky protagonist who’s fun to root for as she deals with rival classmate (and skating champ) Heather Stern; the twins’ creepy nanny, Ms. Revel; and, later, reptilian demons. Aside from the fairies, Makenna gets help from Fluffy, a talking worm, and Stephen Levine, a dreamy Canadian transfer student. The author reveals that some characters aren’t who they initially appear to be, which should keep middle-grade audiences alert. He also educates as he connects the Virago legacy to King Arthur, the monarch’s sword Excalibur, and the story of David, who felled Goliath with a slingshot. The notion that children can change the world by channeling their passion through an object has broad appeal in reality and further potential as a narrative device. The finale featuring an actual Highway to Hell should amuse anyone who’s driven in Los Angeles. The overall likability of this series opener should secure readership for the sequel.
This zany adventure flaunts a heart of gold and a plucky heroine.