Three young girls hope to avert a war between humans and the monsters who believe Earth is rightfully theirs in this second installment of Duffie’s (A Lanodekan Bestiary, 2016, etc.) middle-grade fantasy series.
It’s been a mere three days since 12-year-old Lillian and her best friends, Katy and Maisy, returned from monster-laden Lanodeka, where they’d gone searching for Lillian’s missing older sister, Bluebell. There, Lillian learned mom Annora is a siren and was keeping safe the Creation Stone before Bluebell stole it and took it to Lanodeka. The teen’s in cahoots with monsters planning to assault humans and take back Earth, which they shared years ago before humans began hunting them and forced them to create their own world. Spearheading the plan is evil woman-spider hybrid Arachne, who orchestrates Lillian’s kidnapping to get her special medallion. Bluebell, whose self-appointed warrior name is Lysandra, has one, too; with both medallions and the Creation Stone, Arachne can lead an army into the human world. Fortuitously, Lillian doesn’t have hers when she’s abducted. Katy, Maisy, and shape-shifting pal Jack use the medallion to open a portal to Lanodeka and save their friend. They have monster allies, but their defiance of Arachne means a civil war is imminent. Unfortunately, Arachne has the Creation Stone to make monsters so daunting that they may render her side invincible. The author fills her breezy novel with mythical beasts; griffins and dragons are familiar, while others are refreshingly unique, including shark-mouthed, squid-bodied, spike-tentacled creatures. Duffie aims the story at younger readers but incorporates incisive, mature themes. Anti-discrimination is a staple in monster-featured narratives, but other notions resonate more loudly, like the vicious elf Captain, implying every creature—even good-natured ones—has the capacity for evil. Distinctive leads complement one another: earnest Lillian, meek Katy, and charmingly sardonic Maisy. Duffie, however, spotlights all of her characters, from the distrusting Captain to each of the girls’ mothers, who occasionally bicker like their daughters. There’s also playfulness regarding expectations (some monsters aren’t quite the same as myths have asserted) and understated humor, especially with Maisy. Working a strategy to protect the medallion, she thinks to herself, “I hope I know what I’m doing.”
An enchanting, spirited tale packed with genuine adventure for characters and readers alike.