The combination of adventure, appealing characters, and high stakes should satisfy middle-grade fantasy fans.

SECRETS OF VALHALLA

Two unlikely preteens battle the gods of Norse mythology to save their world from Ragnarok—chaos and destruction.

Strange things are happening in Crowmarsh, England, and Buzz Buzzard has lots to contend with: his botanist mother in missing in the Amazon cloud forest; his famous mythology-professor father is as remote as ever; he’s bullied by his sister’s boyfriend; and it is Friday the 13th, a date he dreads. Buzz meets Mary, a visiting American girl who can see ghosts and read people’s fears. In the Tangley Woods they discover the missing local meteorologist, only to find that she has become a host for the goddess Sunna, one of the day guardians. Loki has escaped his bonds and captured Sunna, causing Sunday to cease to exist and throwing the world into a repeating Saturday time loop. Loki wants the Runes of Valhalla, held by the day guardians. In order to find the runes first, Buzz and Mary travel, with the help of a huge magic tree, to the cloud realm, to Atlantis, and to the underworld, battling magic and danger. Although the action proceeds at breakneck speed, character development does not suffer; both Mary and Buzz are appealing. Some knowledge of Norse mythology will help readers unravel the multiple gods and complicated plot, but it’s not critical.

The combination of adventure, appealing characters, and high stakes should satisfy middle-grade fantasy fans. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-201009-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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