Posted in Tween Reads

Blog Tour: TILTERSMITH by Amy Herrick

Welcome to The Tiltersmith Blog Tour!

Follow along as we celebrate the release of The Tiltersmith with behind-the-scenes looks from author Amy Herrick, plus 10 chances to win a copy!

Old Books that Bump into Magic
by Amy Herrick

In yesterday’s blog I talked about my early reading habits, how I particularly loved the kind of fantasies where magical encounters came to ordinary children much like myself as they moved through their ordinary worlds.

Several of these books I go back to again and again looking for the same sensation they gave me the first time I read them, of sitting in my bedroom on a dull and rainy afternoon and noticing a slightly open door in the wall of my bedroom. A door that had never been there before. A door with some light coming through it or maybe a little music or laughter or maybe a scent I’d never scented before. A World in Back of the World.

I’ll mention here a few of the books from my childhood that still do this for me. Books that are still in print, but possibly you have missed.

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbitt

This book was first published in 1902. Although it takes place in England and is over one hundred years old, you will find the children in it perfectly recognizable and ordinary. They have been brought on a summer vacation to a house in the country. One day they find a big sand pit and decide to try to dig a hole to Australia. They don’t manage to get that far, but along the way they accidentally dig up a Psammead, “which in plain English” is a Sand-fairy. It is round and fat and furry with eyes at the end of long horns, like a snail’s eyes.  It has been sleeping in the sand pit for the last few thousand years and, as it turns out, is able to grant wishes. This, it proceeds to do, giving them one wish each day. Although the children attempt to be careful, knowing from fairytales how easy it is for things to go wrong in such matters, each wish brings on more trouble than the one before. The book is funny, charming and cleverly suspenseful. It was pretty much a ground-breaker in its time.
Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton

This one was originally published as two books, the first in 1943 (Bedknob), the second (Broomsticks) in 1945. They were later combined in an edited version in 1957.  In this story, three siblings are sent away from London to stay with a relative in a countryside town. There, early one morning, they accidently observe their very proper and upright next-door neighbor flying by their window on a wobbling broomstick. When they confront Miss Price with their discovery that she is a witch in training, she devises a clever means of keeping their mouths shut and her secret safe. She gifts them with an enchanted bedknob which will turn their bed into a magical vehicle. When they twist the knob, the bed will carry them anywhere they wish in time or place. The catch is that she will take the spell away if any of them divulge her secret.

In the beginning, it appears that the adventures will be of the tangled, light-hearted variety. For their first wish, longing to see their mother, they give the bed their home address. The bed plops them down in the middle of a foggy London street, dressed only in their pajamas. Unfortunately, their mother is not at home and they are soon carted off to a nearby police station by an annoyed policeman. By guile and quick wits, they manage to get out of this one, but as the book moves on and they are taken across the world* and then thrown into the distant English past, the stakes grow higher and it becomes the sort of book you are reading under the covers with a flashlight.

*It should be noted that in one of these later chapters there is a “cannibal island” scene in which the children meet up with a fictional primitive culture. Nowadays, Norton’s descriptions of the tribe the children encounter might be considered stereotypical and inaccurate.

Half Magic by Edward Eager

Half Magic was the first written of Edward Eager’s seven books about ordinary children who happen to bump into magic right in the middle of their ordinary United States of America childhoods. It takes place at the time of Eager’s own childhood in 1920’s United States and was first published in 1954. The story opens at the beginning of summer. The four protagonists, one brother and three sisters, are bored and hoping they might encounter some magic like the children do in the books of Edith Nesbit. Although, as Mark, the brother, says: “Magic never happens, not really.”

Then Jane finds what she believes to be a nickel stuck in a crack in a sidewalk and puts it in her pocket. She doesn’t really look at it and doesn’t begin to realize the peculiar power of the coin until she innocently wishes out loud that a house would catch on fire somewhere nearby, so they could have some excitement. In the next moment several fire trucks go racing down the street and the children go running after them. They soon stop in front of a yard where a very fancy play house is burning to the ground in a great conflagration of smoke and flames.

In the next instance, their mother, without asking for permission, borrows the coin (also mistaking it for a nickel) off Jane’s dresser. She goes out for a boring evening with relatives, wishes she could be at home without needing to take the long bus ride, and suddenly and inexplicably finds herself on a dark and lonely road, halfway to where she has wished to be.

It soon becomes apparent to the children (although not to their mother), that the coin can grant wishes, but only half a wish at a time.

As the book unfolds, the foursome must experiment as they try to figure out how to cajole the coin into giving them an entire wish.

You might say, that by the end, they are half successful.

The process, however, is a fully satisfying joy ride for the reader.

If you’ve missed any of the above, I envy you. What a first-time treat you have in store for yourself.


About the Book

Amazon | BookshopGoodreads

Myths and monsters collide with climate chaos in a thrilling fantasy adventure.

Spring has arrived in Brooklyn, New York, but winter refuses to let go. Sleet, snow, and even a tornado batter the city. Mr. Ross, the science teacher, believes climate change is the cause, but classmates Edward, Feenix, Danton, and Brigit suspect older, magical forces are at work. When a peculiar character calling himself Superintendent Tiltersmith appears with a keen interest in the foursome, their suspicions are confirmed, and they’re swept up in a battle of wits and courage.

The friends must protect a set of mysterious tools belonging to the Lady of Spring. If they can free her from her underground prison, winter will end. But if the Tiltersmith steals the tools, he will keep the Lady in his power and upset the balance of nature forever.

Perfect for readers of Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper, The Tiltersmith returns to the world of Amy Herrick’s acclaimed Time Fetch in a timely, exciting stand-alone adventure.

Praise:

“Herrick combines vivid descriptions of climate events, school-set science lessons, and weather-related stories from various cultures around the globe . . . resonates with current events and fits tonally alongside children’s fantasy classics.”
Publishers Weekly

“Vacillating between scientific reasoning and lore from worldwide cultures, the descriptions of beautiful legends of seasons and the sobering study of climate change are so rich.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Despite the contemporary setting, a diversified cast, and topical themes, events take on ritualistic elements that readers up on their Greek mythology will recognize. American fans of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence will find themselves on familiar footing, albeit a bit closer to home.”
Booklist

“The author proves to have a keen eye for developing wonderfully dastardly villains. Tiltersmith is a fantastic bad guy who oozes disarming charm while also being deeply unsettling … cleverly handled … a compelling tale.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books  

“It’s a great combination of the mystical and the scientific! A bit of gentle romance shouldn’t deter younger readers . . . The writing style is craftily literary, with warm incisive forays into each character’s inner life.”
Youth Services Book Review   

About the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Amy Herrick grew up in Queens, New York, and attended SUNY Binghamton and the University of Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn, where she has raised two sons, taught pre-K and grade school, written books, and kept company with her husband and numerous pets. A retired teacher, she loves traveling, learning Spanish, and above all reducing her carbon footprint.


GIVEAWAY

  • Ten (10) winners will receive a hardcover of The Tiltersmith
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/6 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

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Blog Tour Schedule:

October 17th Mama Likes This
October 18th A Dream Within a Dream
October 19th Always in the Middle
October 20th BookHounds
October 21st Mrs. Book Dragon

October 24th Good Choice Reading
October 25th Mom Read It
October 26th YA Books Central
October 27th Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
October 28th Randomly Reading

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Go read Rust in the Root RIGHT NOW!

Rust in the Root, by Justina Ireland, (Sept. 2022, Balzer + Bray), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063038226

Ages 14+

Justina Ireland’s new historical fantasy is everything that other historical fantasy about magicians in the 1920s and 1930s should have been. Set in 1937, Laura Ann Langston arrives in New York, from her small town in Pennsylvania. She wants to earn her mage’s license so she can become a baker to the stars, but fate has a curve ball waiting. She takes a she applies for a job with the Colored Auxiliary of the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps: magic exists in this history, and like everything else at the time, it’s segregated. Ireland expertly weaves U.S. history into her fantasy to give us an incredible story where white Necromancers and Mechomancers – magic with metal – threaten the world’s structure; the Auxiliary, made up with different areas of magic users, use natural means to combat them. Sent into the Ohio Deep Blight – an area of Ohio under attack from Necromancy – and Laura, now known as the Peregrine, ventures into the Blight with her mentor, the Skylark, and a group of apprentices. When they arrive in Ohio, they discover a deep, evil purpose behind the disappearance of the previous team sent out, and that their own lives are in danger. Justina Ireland views American history through a social lens and brings to life a fantasy that makes perfect sense. Black and white photos run throughout, with wry observations from Peregrine; missives from the Skylark will keep you guessing until the end. Incredible storytelling and world-building make this one of the best books I’ve read this year. Read this, booktalk this, and give it to history and fantasy fans alike.

Rust in the Root has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

New YA fantasy duology: The Darkening

The Darkening, by Sunya Mara, (July 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358561989

Ages 13+

Set in a fantasy world terrorized by a storm that leaves anyone caught in it cursed, Vesper Vale is the 17-year-old daughter of revolutionaries. Her mother walked into the storm, and her father is on the run from the Wardana, the royal guard, led by the ruler’s heir, the cold-hearted Prince Dalca. Her father is a powerful ikonomancer – a magic user that works with symbols to weave spells – and refuses to teach Vesper; this all changes when the Wardana and Dalca catch up with Vesper’s father and take him prisoner. Determined to save her father, Vesper befriends a mole in the Wardana and weaves an appearance spell that will get her inside Dalca’s inner circle. Once she’s on the inside, she realizes that nothing is as black-and-white as it seems: there is much about her mother’s disappearance that she was never privy to, and she certainly never expected to fall for Dalca – or that he would fall for her, too. Strong worldbuilding sets the tone for this fantasy adventure, which has a good premise but gets in its own way at times. The interaction between characters is delicious, particularly between Vesper and Dalca: such romantic tension! The action is exciting, and the idea of ikonomancy is incredibly interesting; I wanted to learn more. This is the first in a duology, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes, now that we seem to be into the meat of the story. A good investment for your fantasy collections.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A fairy tale retelling of the Japanese “Cinderella” within the Eva Evergreen universe

Alliana, Girl of Dragons, by Julie Abe, (Aug. 2022, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780316300353

Ages 8-12

In a Cinderella-inspired Japanese fantasy tale, Alliana is an orphan living with her cruel stepmother and stepsiblings, with only her Grandmother Mari providing any affection. When Grandmother Mari dies, Alliana is bereft and alone in a hostile home, until she rescues a baby nightdragon and meets Nela, an apprentice witch. Alliana and Nela become fast friends and the nightdragon, whom Alliana names Kabo, give her hope of escaping her home living the life she dreams of: attending the Royal Academy. Alliana, Girl of Dragons is set in the world of Julie Abe’s Eva Evergreen universe and is filled with rich fantasy worldbuilding and elements of Japanese culture. Fairy tale readers will recognize elements of the Cinderella tale, including references to Alliana being a “girl of dust”, a royal ball, and Alliana’s secret attendance. The story explores friendship and found families, resilience, and greed. Readers do not need to be familiar with Eva Evergreen – I wasn’t! – to enjoy this adventure. Filled with dragons and magic, Alliana, Girl of Dragons is a great book to recommend to fantasy readers, readers who enjoy new takes on classic fairy tales, and anime and manga fans, who will also enjoy the manga artwork that sets off every chapter and places readers in Abe’s world.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Great TBR Read-Down: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza, (Nov. 2021, Harry N. Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419752599

Ages 12+

Do not let the cover fool you: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a fantasy mystery that will keep you guessing. Vera Glass is a high school student living in a world where everyone has a magic gift; Vera’s is the ability to open locks, while her mother’s intuition magic makes her a wonderfully empathetic and comforting parent. She lives with her scientist parents and siblings, has a strong faith community, and a solid group of friends, but something just isn’t right. No one can quite voice it, but there’s something missing; something leaving a hole in more and more people’s lives, and Vera is determined to find out what it is. There are a few suspects, including a group of “witches” from the Goth kid group and the organization that Vera’s parents work for. The strength here is in the jarring disappearances that pop up throughout the book: a character is part of the scene, and then they’re just… not. And Vera pauses, trying to remember something just outside of her memory, not able to quite grasp what’s changed; just that there’s an ache she can’t quite shake. Heartbreaking and very readable, Vera is the first-person narrator, written with deep feeling by Anna Priemaza. Vera’s faith doesn’t come across as preachy; it’s a facet of her life, and she has an inclusive group of friends that also includes some atheist representation. The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass examines the feelings we have for those in our lives that go deeper than the surface; deeper than memory.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Monsters of Rookhaven is all about Family

The Monsters of Rookhaven, by Pádraig Kenny/Illustrated by Edward Bettison, (Sept. 2021, Henry Holt), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250623942

Ages 10-14

Mirabelle loves her very unique family: there’s Uncle Bertram, who can transform into a grizzy bear, and Aunt Eliza, entirely made up of spiders. There are the twins, Dotty and Daisy, who can be a little cruel, and Odd, who travels through portals. There’s Gideon, the newest addition to the family, and the mysterious Piglet; and there’s Uncle Enoch, who presides over the group. They have an agreement with the English village that separates them by way of a magical border: they don’t cross the border and eat the townsfolk, and the village keeps them fed and safe from the outside world. But Jem and Tom, two orphaned siblings, discover a tear in the magic and find their way into Rookhaven, with consequences for everyone on both sides of the border.

This book is gorgeous; beautifully macabre and perfect for kids who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The narration moves swiftly along but is never rushed; it’s deliberate and takes its time creating the world of Rookhaven and the post-War English countryside; we meet a group of people devastated by war and the grief and loss it brings, making them susceptible to the worst type of manipulation. We meet another group of beings, specially gifted but assumed terrible, also suffering from grief and loss, with the added confusion of having two very human children stumble into their secure world and turn things upside down. Pádraig Kenny masterfully brings these elements together with dark humor and gentle moments, tension and terror mixed with wonder and pain. Edward Bettison’s blackwork illustrations add the perfect moodiness to the story. An excellent choice for book groups

The Monsters of Rookhaven is out in hardcover now and will be released in paperback this September, to coincide with the hardcover release of the next Rookhaven book, The Shadows of Rookhaven.

The Monsters of Rookhaven has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, picture books

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is great folklore

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked, by David Barclay Moore/Illustrated by John Holyfield, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536213690

Ages 6-10

When old Rootilla Redgums and her young grandson, Julius Jefferson walk into the town of Walkerton, Georgia, everyone is suspicious. Dogs snargggled. Cats hisssked. But Rootilla, who was born almost 100 years before in 1776, and her 9-year-old grandson quickly win the town over with their kindness and Rootilla’s everyday magic: she teaches the townspeople to weave rugs that never wear down, and bake ceramic jugs that never empty. The whites in the area – known here as “the Fearful Folks” – are convinced the Black residents are up to no good, and show up in their bedsheets and wielding their torches, trying to scare everyone. Rootilla isn’t having it, and turns those torches to cornstalks. But time is running short, and Julius puts her last wish into action, renaming the town Carrimebac and literally moving the town away, pulled by his faithful goose, Woody. Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is a delightful tall tale; folklore told in a lively voice and brought to life with gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Set in 1876, the Ku Klux Klan are a menacing presence; readers will cheer to see them upended by the Rootilla and the townspeople, let by Rootilla’s young grandson, Julius. A wonderful addition to your collections. Visit Candlewick’s website for a free educator guide.

David Barclay Moore is a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for his YA novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Visit his website to learn more about his books and his films. Visit illustrator John Holyfield’s website to see more of his artwork.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Wishes aren’t free: The Well

The Well, by Jake Wyatt/Illustrated by Choo, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626724143

Ages 14+

A seaside village is attacked by a monster. A woodcutter, his wife and mother in law, two powerful witches, join forces to battle it, and disappear, leaving behind their child and her grandfather, to raise her. Thirteen years later, Lizzie is a teen who helps her grandfather by selling their wares at the local market, but when she needs money to cover her passage home, she grabs money from the sacred well and awakens a spirit that urges her to repay her debt. Lizzie must grant wishes, but every wish comes with a price; some are painful to bear. In her quest to cover her debts at the well, Lizzie will learn about the magic that almost destroyed her family.

The Well unfolds like a fairy tale: a monster, a tragedy, a child left behind, and a legacy of magic to be discovered. The moral – every wish comes with a price, and having a wish granted isn’t always what it seems – runs through the story, reminding readers to think before they act, even before they wish. The artwork is dreamlike, with vibrant color and fantastic monsters. A must for your fantasy fans.

I love the idea of having tweens and teens create their own fairy tales, and The Well is a great way to introduce a program like that. Invite readers to volunteer fairy tale elements they see in the story. Outback Aussie Teaching has a planning template on Teachers Pay Teachers, to help writers organize their thoughts; the Bilingual Language Institute has a Spanish/English picture board with options for characters, setting, problems, solutions, and magic powers to help give readers a flow to work with.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Anne Ursu’s The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is brilliant!

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu, (Oct. 2021, Walden Pond Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062275127

Ages 9-13

Anne Ursu is an undisputed champion of kidlit fantasy. I’ve devoured The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs and am in awe of how she creates these incredible worlds with characters that are so realistic, so well-written, that looking up and realizing I’m still in my living room, dog across my legs, with a book in my lap, can be a little jarring. Her latest story, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, is kidlist feminist fantasy at its best. Taking place in a fantasy world and time, Marya Lupu is a girl living in a kingdom under attack from an army called The Dread. Her parents are straight-up awful; they dote on her brother, Luka, because in this world, the young men are sent into service as sorcerers to fight the dread while, if they’re lucky, the girls and families get to live off the sorcerer’s reputation. This sets the siblings up against each other, which never ends well: sure enough, on the day Luka is to be evaluated by the sorcerers for his skill, chaos ensues and it leads right back to Marya. The next day, a letter from a school called the Dragmoir Academy shows up for Marya: it’s a school for wayward girls, and her parents can’t pack her off quickly enough.  What she discovers at the Academy, though, are a group of young women who are far more than just a bunch of “troubled” young women, and the Dragomir Academy has a darker history than they’re owning up to.

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is about women, power, and fear. It’s a school story, with different personalities and the conflict that comes with putting that many personalities together under stressful circumstances; it’s also a story of hidden women, hidden messages, and who really controls the dialogue, whether it comes to today’s news or a high-fantasy novel about a land under threat from a horrific enemy that devastates everything in its path. Brilliantly written, with characters that readers will love; Marya is a smart young woman who’s been beaten down for a long time; unlike many of the other girls in the novel, though, she refuses to second-guess or question herself when it’s time to take action, and she motivates her schoolmates to own their own power, too.

Anne Ursu is an award-winning, National Book Award-nominated fantasy author. Visit her website for more information about her books and teacher guides, and upcoming events.

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy has a starred review from Kirkus and is an Indie Next pick.

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Witches of Orkney Super-Post!

‘Morning, all! I’ve been digging deeply into Alane Adams’s Witches of Orkney series, courtesy of SparkPress, and… WOW. I read the Legends of Olympus books earlier this year, so when Spark offered me the full Orkney set to get caught up in time for the newest book, The Mermaid Queen, I went for it. The big feedback: great reads for your fantasy readers; good crossover for your Rick Riordan readers. Let’s get into each book, shall we?

The Blue Witch, (Witches of Orkney #1), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2018, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943006779

Ages 8-12

Abigail Tarkana is a 9-year-old witch with a big problem: her magic is different, and that’s not exactly prized at her school, the Tarkana Witch Academy. While everyone else’s witchfire is green, hers is blue, which could mark her as a traitor, which targets her for even more bullying than she’s already putting up with. Together with her friend, Hugo, they will strip away the secrets of Abigail’s past, including the identity of her parents. Is she the daughter of a notorious coven traitor? Abigail and Hugo confront monsters on a quest into the Netherworld that test both their powers. Rich with Norse mythology, Alane Adams excels at worldbuilding and character development. Black and white illustrations throughout help give readers extra context and keep interest high. There’s action and intrigue with solid fantasy storytelling, and the characters are kid-friendly. Themes of friendship, protecting and supporting one another, and teamwork run strong.

An excellent choice for book groups, you can touch on Norse mythology and its presence in the series. Alane Adams offers free book club kits on her author website for all of her series, including maps, posters, and challenges. Offer as a readalike to Riordan fans who loved the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, or Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr’s Blackwood Pages series, and have nonfiction like NatGeo Kids’ Treasury of Norse Mythology or Mathias Nordvig’s Norse Mythology for Kids available. Readers are going to devour this series.

The Blue Witch received multiple awards, including the 2020 IPPY Awards Bronze Winner in Cover Design, and Moonbeam’s Gold Medal in Pre-Teen Fiction/Fantasy.

 

The Rubicus Prophecy, (Witches of Orkney #2), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2019, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943006984

Ages 8-12

The second book in the Witches of Orkney series ratchets up the action. Abigail is back at Tarkana Witch Academy and studying for her classes. She’s still dealing with Endera, her bully, and to make matters worse, Endera’s mother is one of Abigail’s teachers. Hugo, meanwhile, is hearing rumors about war and a prophecy that sounds uncomfortably similar to Abigail and her abilities. There’s even more action in this installment, including visits from the Norse gods, and draugars – zombies! – to be read. Illustrator Jonathan Stroh returns, creating exciting, spooky black and grey artwork that adds to the mood of the book. Readers can pick up the story without having read The Blue Witch, but I’d let them know taht they’re going to miss quite a bit of exposition if they do: story arcs continue here that were set up in the first book, after all, and established characters took an entire book to develop. This is a good series to give to readers who are ready for slightly grittier storytelling, as Ms. Adams reminds us that the Vikings didn’t worship the Norse gods for their gentle natures. (And hello, zombies.) Not overly gruesome, but something to keep in mind for readers who may need a heads-up.

Alane Adams has a gift for fantasy storytelling, and loads the book with adventure, humor, and magic elements. Giving her stories a background in Norse myth gives it the “Riordan Appeal” that lets me start off a strong booktalk, because in my readers advisory elevator pitches, I have to move fast: I’m competing with Minecraft and Roblox on our library computers, after all!

 

Witch Wars, (Witches of Orkney #3), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2020, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630639

Ages 8-12

We’re two books in now, and the third book, Witch Wars, starts off with the Asgardian prologue we’ve grown accustomed to, which will set the tone for the story within, which leads into Tarkana, present day, where Abigail is beating herself up over the disasters from The Rubicus Prophecy. Now, Orkney is speeding toward war, an ancient power has been restored, and Hugo and Abigail set off to Jotunheim – land of the Frost and Rock Giants – to track down Thor and convince him to give them his hammer, Mjolnir, to help them set things right. No problem, right? Meanwhile, Endera and her friends are on Abigail’s trail, believing they’ll find proof that Abigail is truly a traitor, and their former friend Robert Barconian arrives on the scene with an army of dwarves to stop Abigail and Hugo. The characters are maturing and growing into themselves in this third book; Abigail, in particular, considers the fallout of her actions and has to contend with guilt and grief, while Hugo steps up to be the support that she needs as she works through some complex emotions. More gods and characters from Norse mythology make appearances, and the intrigue runs high. The action keeps readers turning pages, and the dialogue moves at an excellent pace. This series starts off strong and, three books in, maintains its forward motion.

 

 

The Mermaid Queen, (Witches of Orkney #4), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2021, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684631131

The latest book in the saga, The Mermaid Queen, starts off with a major moment of foreboding in the Asgardian prologue. From there, we see that Abigail has fallen into a depression after putting her trust in the wrong ally during the events of Witch Wars. Capricorn, the mermaid queen, betrayed Abigail and her friends and unleashed Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent, and now Abigail and Hugo must cross the seas to find Odin and warn him that Jormungand is coming for him, and find a way to return the serpent to his underwater cell. Abigail discovers that her powers on their own aren’t enough, and may have to risk tapping into her dark magic. But can you use dark magic, even for a good cause, without being affected? It’s a choice she has to make. Big choices and the truth that life isn’t always black and white; good and evil, are the big themes here – perfect for a growing and maturing tween reader who is confronting similar quandaries (maybe no Midgard Serpent, but some moments sure feel as intimidating as one) in their own lives.

The Witches of Orkney series is the prequel to the Legends of Orkney series, so you can read this before you dig into Legends, and go straight through, or you can read Legends first, and then pick up Witches and get deeper context for events and characters in Legends. Either way, I really suggest you read the novels in order, so you can have a cohesive understanding of each series as it unfolds. It’s an excellent series that’s sure to have high interest. If you are new to Alane Adams’s universe, ask your big readers to give them a shot and get feedback before buying a set; I think it’s a purchase well made.