Sunday, November 13, 2016

Foxheart (MMGM review)

Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (October 4, 2016)
Courtesy of our local library

I'm excited to offer a lovely new book by Claire Legrand for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver is not an orphan, but her parents left her in a convent orphanage anyway. Never fitting in, or wanting to, Quicksilver learns to fend for herself... and take what she wants. With aspirations of being the greatest thief in the Star Lands, and when she finds a stray dog she names Fox, she even has a companion.

But everything changes in a flash when a strange group of seven visit the convent late at night, and wreak havoc in a search for witches (of which very few are left in the world). Quicksilver escapes with Fox, and they head out to perfect her thieving ways, but before long they run into an old woman who changes everything. Soon, Quicksilver and Fox are embarked on a quest they don't much want to help people they don't much like while fighting an ancient king who may not be quite what he seems.

Themes of love and loss, loyalty and sacrifice, and the importance of deciding your own fate are woven into a tapestry that is a delight to watch, and even more fun to live through. I particularly liked that Quicksilver's early dream of being a great thief never fade and are integrated into her new life. Richly imagined with great characters and a very clever fantasy world, this is a delight for middle grade kids, and anybody else who loves a good story.

I strongly recommend this to all who love fantasy, magic and wonderful worlds.

Four and a half stars out of five.

To find other posts for MMGM, visit Shannon Messenger's blog where she toils to keep up with them.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Princeless #1: Save Yourself (review)

Princeless #1: Save Yourself
Author: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: M Goodwin
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment (April 1, 2014)

From School Library Journal: Princess Adrienne is no hero's fair maiden, and she is not afraid to say so! She's the seventh daughter whom her father, the king, has stranded in a tower (his goal is to lure a prince worthy to rule the kingdom of Ashland). Prince after prince has tried to rescue Adrienne, and after Prince Wilcome's failed attempt, she decides to save herself. Along with her protector dragon, Adrienne decides to save her sisters, but their first mission is to find some armor. Blacksmith Bedelia Smith joins their group with her armor-for-ladies collection, and the princess also lets her brother, Prince Devin, in on her plan. After his failed rescue attempt, the very charming Prince Wilcome is banished to the palace's dungeon, but he doesn't bargain on Shadira the elf tricking him into helping her escape. This volume includes the first four issues of the dynamic and female-empowering comic book series. Princess Adrienne is a strong woman of color, and she talks about her femininity in a fresh and fierce new way. Other characters are drawn well, and the side stories of Bedelia Smith, Prince Wilcome, and Prince Devin are engaging. On the whole, the series feels current and skewers well-known tropes. VERDICT Princess Adrienne is not to be missed! Recommended for all middle grade graphic novel collections.

This (or these, as it is really four short comic issues in one) is the sort of book I am thrilled to have around for young girls. It is fun and quick, and I love the diversity and empowerment. I would recommend it for middle grade shelves at the bookstore or library.

That said, it wasn't quite all I had hoped when I read about it. There are a lot of great graphic novels, and I was hoping for something closer to that. This is more of a comic book style, and that doesn't appeal to me as much. (Fortunately, I am not the target demographic, which is why there is a whole series of these already.)

So, good for them for making it, and I hope it gives great pleasure to the young ladies for whom it is intended (and the young men who aren't afraid).

Three and a half stars out of five.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When The Moon Was Ours (review)

When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin (October 4, 2016)

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel's wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel's skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they're willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

This was recommended when I was seeking books with transgender characters, and it has that and so much more. Magical realism shows up in various books, but has a special style in Latin American literature. (Note: I majored in Latin American studies in college, and lived briefly in Venezuela.) The magical realism in When the Moon Was Ours is so tightly woven into the story and setting and language, you would have trouble sorting out what it "real" and what is "magic", and all of it is steeped in symbolism and interconnected meanings. It reminds me of both Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.

But even if you are not a literature-nerd, this is a wonderful young adult story of love and loss and sacrifice. Miel and Sam are beautifully drawn, and inexorably drawn together. The Bonner girls are fabulous villains, as perfect and flawed as you could hope. Reading about them, you are reminded that every person has their own tragic and heroic story, and I almost wish Ms. McLemore had time to write those as well.

Given that I sought the book out for its transgender character, I should mention that it is a tastefully and lovingly handled. I have too little personal experience to judge or comment on that aspect beyond the fact that the author made the characters feel authentic and true.

But don't take my word for it. Run out and get a copy of this gem.

Five stars out of five!