A deft twist on familiar source material and a tween hero’s relatable struggle with destiny.



A young mage sees his family enslaved and joins King Arthur’s fight against evil.

In this dynamic fantasy series opener for middle-grade readers, Mordred of Arthurian legend is recast as the sinister king of northern Britain. He decrees that all “ordinarius,” or nonmagical, families will be sold into slavery and their goods and property forfeited. Those with magic will be forced to join Mordred’s mages in his upcoming war against King Arthur in the south. Villager Pip Gwynhoed, 12, is the only one in his family with magical abilities. He wants to stay with his relatives, but when they are separated on the auction block—realistically depicted—Pip loses control of his untrained gift. Drawn to Pip’s raw power, Merlin appears, takes him as his apprentice, and buys the boy’s mother and sister, freeing them all for a perilous journey to join Arthur in advance of Mordred’s forces. When Pip’s mother and sister are brutally taken by bandits along the way, the tween’s desperate attempt to find them threatens his own life. With vivid scene-setting, McCauley expertly draws readers into a perilous, sometimes ruthless world as experienced through the eyes of a boy consumed by guilt and grief over his family’s plight and the uncertainty about who he is becoming. Pip is haunted by ravens that twist “in the sky, their wings nearly blacking out the pale winter sun.” He sees Arthur’s “massive hill fortress” with wooden battlements reaching “like fingers into the sky.” It may be a predictable trope that Pip is seemingly central to a prophecy—he does, after all, carry a powerful runestone passed down from his magus grandfather—but there is no loss of authenticity in the protagonist’s character development. Pip’s struggle to rise above his personal anguish to fight for all who suffer under wicked Mordred’s cruelty rings true. But the author ups the stakes and sets the stage for the sequel when it appears that Pip may pay a high price for Arthur’s solution to preventing others from seizing magical power.

A deft twist on familiar source material and a tween hero’s relatable struggle with destiny.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-951069-16-2

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Celtic Sea, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.


The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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