Elissa’s Quest by Erica Verrillo.
Elissa is a thirteen-year-old who has lived with her Nana in a small village. She doesn’t know anything about her parents and Nana refuses to tell her anything. Elissa has a gift of talking with animals, and one of her best friends is Gertrude, a donkey. Then one fateful day, Elissa’s father, a royal prince, comes and takes her away. They travel to the Khan’s fortress, where Elissa is to be used as a bargaining chip between the Khan and her father. It is only through her own gifts and newfound courage that Elissa finds her way free of the web she is trapped in. This is the first book in a new series.
Yes, I know the paragraph above is short on details, but one of the joys of this novel is slowly discovering its twists and turns. Elissa is a well-drawn protagonist, a girl who would never think she was brave but finds it deep within herself. Her young companion, Maya, is also charmingly rendered. The adult characters are not as fully imagined as the child characters, but young readers shouldn’t mind that. There is a strong sense of mysticism in the novel, creating a deeper experience than many fantasy novels for youth.
This is the perfect book for tweens. With a protagonist who’s a teenager, tweens should really enjoy reading this. Yet it doesn’t have the sexuality or dark violence of a fully teen novel.
Share this book with tweens who enjoy Tamora Pierce. This is a new female warrior of a different type that they will enjoy rooting for.