The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett

Cover image for The School Between Winter and Fairyland.

The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett (9780063043312)

Autumn and her family are servants at the Inglenook School, a magical boarding school for wizards. Her family cares for the magical monsters in the menagerie, including plant-loving gardening dragons, wisps who need to be clubbed before they are gathered up, and a grumpy Boggart who loves Autumn more than anyone. But Autumn has a mystery to solve, her twin brother Winter disappeared almost a year ago, and she is certain that he isn’t dead. The Boggart spotted him in the school kitchens, but she is not allowed to venture much into the school itself. Meanwhile, Cai Morrigan, the boy prophesized to one day kill the Hollow Dragon, needs Autumn’s help. It turns out that he is terrified of dragons to the point that he can’t stay conscious around them. The deal is that he must help her find Winter while she helps him stop fainting dead away. Now the two of them must search the school and discover hidden parts while also entering the dangerous forest and dealing with dragons big and small.

It is inevitable that people will compare this to Harry Potter due to the magical boarding school at its center, but this middle-grade fantasy novel is something quite different. With a broad sense of humor about monsters, posh wizards, and older brothers, the book also takes on serious subjects like discrimination against different magics, the treatment of those who are different, and one girl’s determination to find her brother no matter what.

The characters are marvelously written. From the powerful and gruff Gran who raises Autumn and her siblings to the brothers who are both heroic and terrible to the family dog who just knows everyone loves him to the dark Boggart who loves deeply and hates to use his full powers. There are monstrous delights throughout the book, the creatures beautifully detailed and fascinating.

A grand fantasy full of twists, magic and mucking out stalls. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Balzar + Bray.

Review: The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

map to everywhere

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

The first book in a new series, this novel invites readers along on a journey into a series of worlds that are tied together by the Pirate Stream, a river of pure magic.  Fin is an orphan with a strange power where no one remembers him after a few minutes, not even the people at the orphanage who cared for him as a child.  He uses that skill to be a master thief, but then he receives a letter with instructions that take him on a quest to find his mother.  Marrill is living in Arizona, a perfectly dull life, when a ship suddenly appears next to her in the desert.  Climbing aboard, she suddenly finds herself on an adventure in the Pirate Stream with a wizard, the ship’s captain, and the crew of rats.  She has to find the parts of the Map in order to make her way home, exactly what Fin also needs to find his mother.  This adventure takes readers to unknown worlds filled with sinister magic, great friendships, and plenty of action.

Ryan and Davis have crafted a wild fantasy novel that is constantly surprising.  Thanks to the strange waters of the Pirate Stream, the travels on board the ship bring readers and the characters to lands that are unique and fascinating.  There is an island of trees that speak and think where rumors and whispers rule.  There is a frozen land with a leaning tower filled with treasure.  There is a bird made from part of the Map that can lead them to the other pieces.  There are mad wizards who create sorrow wherever they go and are determined to destroy themselves and all of the worlds.

While the adventure is a large part of the book, at its heart is the friendship of Marrill and Fin.  Both of them are lonely children before they meet one another, Marrill because she has traveled a lot with her parents and never settled in one place and Fin because everyone forgets him.  Marrill though does not forget Fin, because she cares so deeply.  Their friendship offers both of them riches beyond treasure and delight beyond the adventure.

This strong middle grade fantasy novel will have readers looking forward to the next book and returning to the dangers and wonders of the Pirate Stream.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.