The Feral Child by Che Golden
Maddy’s parents died recently, so she is sent to Ireland to live with her grandparents. She misses London and her friends dreadfully and doesn’t like her cousins or the town of Blarney. Though she has been told not to enter the grounds of the castle in town, she does anyway one evening because she is so angry and just doesn’t care. She stays longer than she means to when her grandparent’s dog George runs off. It is then that she meets a strange boy. That same boy returns to her house later, tapping at the window and asking Maddy to join him, but she refuses to go to the window at all, because she has realized that he is not what he seems to be. When the boy goes to her neighbor and steals their little boy from out of his bedroom window, Maddy sees it all. But with a changeling in the little boy’s place, no one even knows he is actually missing. It is up to Maddy, her cousins, and George the dog to save him, because no one else can. They must enter the faerie realm to do so and face incredible dangers on their quest.
Golden manages to not actually modernize the faeries and their world, which is quite refreshing. Instead what you have in this middle-grade novel is a modern girl thrust into the strange and timeless world of the faeries. She takes the most menacing and amazing parts of folklore and brings them fully to life, creating a dazzling array of faeries and beasts as the children travel. The dangers are brutally displayed and there are times when death is so close, readers will be amazing that the characters survive.
Maddy is not a particularly likeable character at first in the novel, nor are her cousins. Maddy is the main protagonist and undergoes a believable transformation into heroine as the novel goes on. The same can be said for one of her cousins who comes out of her shell and into her own. The other cousin, the bully, has too easy a transformation and it happens a bit to early in the book as well. But that is a quibble in an impressive faerie tale.
Faeries, Ireland and an amazing quest all come together to create a book that is frightening, riveting and a rip-roaring read. Appropriate for ages 10-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Quercus.
Rise of the Darklings (The Invisible Order Book #1) by Paul Crilley
At twelve years old, Emily Snow has been looking after her younger brother since her parents disappeared. She tries to earn enough money to feed them both by selling watercress on the streets of Victorian London. One cold morning on her way to the watercress vendor, Emily encounters several strange small people having a battle. After the battle, two men approach her to ask her what she witnessed. Emily refuses to tell them, but that is not the last she will hear from them or from the piskies she saw battling. In fact, Emily has just entered the confusing and amazing world of the sidhe where both sides want her to help them and no one is telling the truth. Joined by Jack, a thief from the streets, Emily tries to figure out who she can trust and what her role is in the future of both humans and fey.
This book is a pleasure to read. Crilley has nicely balanced the world of the fey with the real world of London. Filled with details about the city, this book’s setting is well drawn and delightfully mixed with the magic and wonder of the sidhe world. Crilley also offers a feisty heroine who will delight young readers not only with her intelligence but her own guile as she deals with the faeries and The Invisible Order of humans too. The book reads effortlessly, beginning quickly with the pages whipping by as the adventure heats up. Children looking for a good read should look no further. Teachers as well should look to this as a great classroom read with enough action to keep even the most doubtful listener rapt.
A delight of a novel, this is one of the top faery books I have read for younger readers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Egmont.
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
This sequel to Lament continues the story of Dee and James, this time from James’ perspective. Now the two of them are at Thornking-Ash, a boarding highschool for musically talented teens. James is an incredibly talented piper and his talent draws in a faerie who seeks out musicians and gives them great music in exchange for years of their lives. Nuala arrives ready to make a deal with James, but as they get to know one another better, her motives change. Now they must deal with the fact that Nuala lives only 16 years and will be burned alive on Halloween only to return reborn without any memories. And on top of that, they have to stop the cunning other faeries who are searching for more power through Dee.
Stiefvater has outdone herself here. Her prose is thorny, magical, and gripping. The novel draws you into its faerie ring and won’t release you until you are gasping for breath from the dance. Her characterization of James is poignant and soul searching combined with a sarcasm and wit that really brings him to life. Nuala is a character readers will be set to detest, but will slowly warm to just as James does. She is a complex character who changes through the course of the book believably.
The setting of the school is done very well. It becomes both an area of safety and a place of fear. The campus setting is ideal for this sort of story with its separateness, community and structure.
Impossible to put down, breathlessly turning and spinning, this novel is a wonder. Highly recommended to all libraries and to all teens who loved Lament, this book is appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed by Bib-Laura-graphy, Angieville, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Library Lounge Lizard, The Well-Read Child, and Charlotte’s Library.