This first in a fantasy trilogy features a young girl and a band of animals questing to save the world from itself.
Readers meet Winter, who is in grade nine, surrounded by schoolyard bullies at the novel’s opening, but she is whisked to a world of talking animals within a few chapters. As the newly named leader of the Guardians, which protect the planet and its life force, Winter hones magical skills with guidance from Vulpeera the fox, Pteron the bat, and others. Threats to the Guardianship mount, and common fantasy elements pile up. Winter’s deceased biological parents, her role as a chosen child with magical blood, and a journey to a powerful mountain feel familiar. Meanwhile, themes of grief and climate change add social complexity—though they are woven in with little subtlety, a problem that’s exacerbated as the novel loses control of its pacing. As Winter and her animal comrades race against time, Winter must face painful revelations about her family members while becoming a leader. Chapters end on action to pull readers along. The names of animal characters and magical powers are so numerous that readers may lose track, but Latin buffs might love it. Winter presents white; Vulpeera references two mothers (of different species), and human character Alectus uses a prosthetic foot. Madia and Peirce contribute occasional grayscale spot illustrations.
For readers who want to meander. (Fantasy. 10-13)