An intriguingly exciting hero’s journey that’s also beautifully thoughtful and humane.

BRADLEY’S DRAGONS

A boy must discover his unusual heritage to save himself and his family in this middle-grade novel.

When he was 9 years old, Bradley Nash was threatened by a strange man whom his father called a “hunter.” Bradley escaped, but now—three years later—he has no memory of these events. Nearly 12, he lives in a Florida trailer park with his family. It’s been a quiet life—until just before his birthday, when Bradley gets an unexpected present from his parents: a handwritten book titled Mastering the Gallu Draig. The illustrations depict dragons, and the text includes mysterious aphorisms like “The most important part of your journey is choosing your direction” and “What you need is always more powerful than what you want.” Meanwhile, the hunter is again targeting Bradley and others, this time with some dangerous allies. With the book comes an astonishing family secret that both explains why the hunter is after him and gives the boy a crucial task: Bradley must figure out who he truly is and what he cares about most. A dramatic showdown will test his ability to come of age. In Matthews’ third dragon-themed middle-grade adventure, this one in a real-world setting, he more than fulfills the promise of his earlier fantasy novels. His writing is uniformly excellent, whether untangling complex lore with smart exposition or presenting the inner world of a young hero whose vulnerabilities (such as a debilitating fear of strangers) and caring nature make him very appealing. Despite its magical elements, Bradley’s quest matches well with every adolescent’s need for self-understanding, coming to terms with their family, and finding a life path. His leap into maturity is especially well handled: The odyssey is both suspenseful and deeply moving.

An intriguingly exciting hero’s journey that’s also beautifully thoughtful and humane.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73307-774-3

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Second Story Up

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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