The Shattered Castle is Book Five in the Ascendance Series by Jennifer Nielsen, and it is as rich with action and adventure as it is filled with lessons for living an honorable life. When Jaron Artolius Eckbert the Third defeated the Prozarian Army, he stole the Devil’s Scope and kept the secret for himself. Now he must not only defend Carthya from the vengeful Prozarians and protect his kingdom and his throne from the power-hungry Castor Veldergrath but win back the trust he lost from Imogen, who is furious with him for this betrayal. Nielsen weaves her plot with mastery and creates her characters withRead More →

After magic kills her mother, Liora Duval thinks of magic as an invisible beast capable of snatching her life away in a moment.  As she grows into young adulthood, those fears subside, and Liora discovers she has magic of her own. Although hiding had kept her safe for over a decade, Liora realizes that she can’t know her limits without testing them. Despite being full of curiosity and questions about her power, her options, and how her magic works, she is still fearful. When Lord Darius, the king’s most trusted advisor and a warlock who uses mages as instruments for profit and power, comes toRead More →

Dark, gruesome, and captivating, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker is Book One in a planned duology. In this first installment, Baker writes the story of an angry biracial girl—Ren Scarborough—who is trying to find out where she belongs. This feeling of being half and not whole, as well as the label foreigner haunts Ren, following her from London, England, where she serves as a Reaper, to Japan where Ren was born a Shinigami. In both roles, Ren, who is a descendent of darkness—made not of flesh and blood but of Death and Time—works for Death. This servitude is supposed to be sacred,Read More →

A magical and enchanting tale of adventure, The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore and Erika Lewis will likely intrigue readers of Christopher Paolini or Anne McCaffrey. Besides a story about finding one’s self, Salvatore and Lewis tell a story about love, loyalty, and other things worth fighting for. Seventeen-year-old Maggie and Griffin are both orphans trying to find their place in the world. Just as Griffin must decide if his place is with the corpulent and greedy King Umbert serving as his champion: “Sir Griffin, the mighty Draignoch Slayer” (92), Maggie must determine whether she owes allegiance to Xavier, the magician and perhaps theRead More →

With its first line: “The prison is always quiet but never still,” I suspected The River Has Teeth would be suspenseful and riveting. Erica Waters did not disappoint.  Her novel joins the ranks of good psychological crime thrillers like Silence of the Lambs or the television series Criminal Minds. Besides the main plot thread of girls going missing in The Bend and the mystery of who is murdering them, the book carries several other threads to keep the reader engaged. One thread follows Della Lloyd and her family’s magic, murders, and infinite crimes in brewing potions for customers with vengeful thoughts. The Lloyds live inRead More →

Taking place in 19th century England, this book begins with torture and intrigue. Immediately we’re dropped into a London full of smog and flickering lanterns. The world is cold and merciless, setting the stage for an epic battle between good and evil. Will, the protagonist, finds himself hiding in London after his mother is murdered. It doesn’t take long for Will’s enemies to find him and when they do Will is thrust into a magical world he didn’t know existed. He is revealed to be the last champion for the Light, the last barrier standing between the world that he knows and one that isRead More →

Set on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia, Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel The Girl from the Sea revolves around the life of fifteen-year-old Morgan Kwon.  Morgan likes to keep her life tucked neatly into boxes, but she finds that plan unraveling when she meets Keltie. Keltie brings a sort of wild, chaotic, fairy-tale magic to Morgan’s otherwise grounded life. Keltie is a selkie, a seal who transforms into a human to walk on land for a period of time.  It is Morgan’s kiss that provides the magic for the transformation. But Morgan wants to keep that part of her life hidden from her friends Serena, Lizzie,Read More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

When Alder Madigan and Oak Carson first meet as next door neighbors in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood, the two fifth graders decide they don’t like one another. Complicating any chance at a friendship is the mystery of their mothers’ dislike for one another. However, as time and coincidences transpire, the two accept that change is hard and that sometimes, one thing—like anger or a tree—has to end to make room for something else. Furthermore, the universe appears to have other plans. Those realizations—in the midst of a kitten coincidence, an apparition of a house that isn’t there inhabited by Mort the opossum, and theRead More →