Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Hollow Dolls takes the Shadow Weaver duology in a new direction

Hollow Dolls, by MarcyKate Connolly, (Jan. 2020, Sourcebooks), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-8819-8

Ages 9-14

Picking up immediately after the events in Shadow Weaver (2018) and Comet Rising (2019), Hollow Dolls, set in the Shadow Weaver universe, follows Simone and Sebastian, two of Lady Aisling’s captives, as they try and rebuild their lives. Simone is a mind reader, determined to find her lost family – but she has no idea how old she is, having been Lady Aisling’s prisoner, suspended in time, for so long. Sebastian, a memory thief, invites her to stay with him and his sister, Jemma, as she begins her search, and the three decide to head to the Archives to seek information about Simone’s village. After visiting Lady Aisling in prison, Simone and Sebastian discover that a body walker – someone with a talent to control another person – has taken over Jemma, and the two head off on their journey alone. When they meet a woman named Maeve, also headed to the Archives to learn what happened to her family, they’re so relieved to have found someone they can trust, but strange things start happening when the group arrives at the Archives, too.

Hollow Dolls is an expansion of the Shadow Weaver universe, but there’s enough background in the book that new readers should be able to follow along (and most likely, head for the Shadow Weaver books when they’re finished). Simone and Sebastian’s friendship is a strong part of the story, and the Archives staff and other guests have mixed emotions over their presence there, but there’s not enough meat to the characters to invest readers. The world-building is solid and interesting, and I wanted to know more about the Archives. The unraveling revelations are well-played, and readers will like the overall smooth pace of the novel. In short, Hollow Dolls is good; I just wanted more – which is a pretty good thing, overall. Shadow Weaver readers will likely get much more from this.

Author MarcyKate Connolly’s website has more about her books, a link to her blog, and information about her appearances.


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

Ravenous weaves together fairy tales for great middle grade fantasy

ravenousRavenous, by MarcyKate Connolly (Jan. 2016, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062272744

Recommended for ages 9-13

After being imprisoned in a neighboring city, forced to witness her friends’ deaths at the behest of a greedy king and evil wizard, Greta is doing everything she can to take care of her brother, Hans. Their parents have disappeared, leaving questions and heartache in their wake. When Greta returns home one day to discover Hans missing, she tracks him to a witch’s house. A witch who lives in a chicken leg house. A witch who eats children, and she’s sizing Hans up for her next meal unless Greta retrieves a priceless artifact for her. The artifact is in Belladoma – the city where Greta was held prisoner. A city of people Greta has vowed never to forgive. She’s joined on her quest by Dalen, a young centaur, who has his own village to save. Can the two unravel the secrets the king and wizard left behind to save everyone they love?

Ravenous is the sequel to Monstrous, a smart retake on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. We go deeper into that tale here; deftly woven with the Baba Yaga myth, with a sprinkling of Kraken/ancient Greek storytelling. I love Greta, the main character. She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s determined, and she’s vulnerable. She’s been hurt, she feels betrayed, and her loyalty and willingness to do anything for her brother is powerful and bittersweet all at once. They have no one but one another, and their parents remain a huge question mark in their lives. That’s got to be brutal for a child, and here, it is. MarcyKate Connolly digs deep into Greta’s determination and finds her pain, which acts as her engine. Through it all, though, she’s a good person.

I also love that Baba Yaga is making her way into the major leagues of storytelling over the last few years. We’ve seen her take center stage in Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon and the hit graphic novel Baba Yaga’s Assistant, and now she’s here, causing trouble in Ravenous. I’d like to see more folk and fairy tales from different cultures make their way to middle grade and YA literature; it provides a richer pool to draw from.

You don’t need to read Monstrous to enjoy Ravenous, but it’s highly recommended. A prequel for the series, Precious, is said to be in the final edition; I read an ARC, and the copy I bought for my library was gone as soon as it hit the New Releases shelf, so someone will have to let me know!

Give this book to your fantasy and fairy tale fans. Booktalk Monstrous and Ravenous as new ways of seeing existing folklore and encourage your book group to come up with their own ideas for reimagining a favorite book.