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Magic, fantasy, and adventure converge for another wild adventure in this spellbinding universe.

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The fourth entry in Bridgman’s MiddleGate YA fantasy series finds heroes Wil and Sophie exploring the lost magic of Iceland.

Cousins Wil Wychwood and Sophie Isidor, who come from a long line of mages, are back to continue battling the ancient evil secret society known as the Serpent's Chain—this time in Iceland. When Aunt Violet and Aunt Rue win an all-expenses-paid trip to the volcanic country, Wil and Sophie are worried—they’ve heard from famed explorer Vitellus Albumen that Iceland is perhaps the most desolate, dangerous place of all. Before they can even set off on their trip by passing through the Brimstone Snakes monument (which is actually a magical portal), they hear that a priceless manuscript has been stolen from the MiddleGate library. Bartholomew Bertram, an old friend of Wil’s dad, is accused of the theft and thrown in the “Puzzle Palace," MiddleGate’s prison. Wil and Sophie’s worries only increase when they discover the presence of the Serpent's Chain in Iceland via a mysterious “scriptorium” that shows them visions of the past. As the cousins begin to suspect that their troubles here and at home are connected, their situation is further complicated by the horrifying presence of real-life trolls. A list of character descriptions and a brief summary catch up readers who are new to the series. Black-and-white sketches by the author, reminiscent of traditional Scandinavian folklore drawings, provide images that enhance the rich descriptions Bridgman provides: “The monsters’ ghastly mouths had huge, pebbled tongues and misshapen teeth that gnashed together.” Readers will see similarities to another series featuring a boy wizard—especially in the descriptions of the magical school, Gruffud’s Academy, that Wil and Sophie attend; its textbooks, including Magykal Spelling, Grammar and Palaver; and Aunt Rue’s job at the Secretariat on the Status of Magical Creatures. But these echoes do nothing to dim the dazzling world and lovable characters of Bridgman’s novel—and, in fact, will likely delight fans who have been craving more magical exploits in this world.

Magic, fantasy, and adventure converge for another wild adventure in this spellbinding universe.

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781039167766

Page Count: 390

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2023

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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