Escape from Falaise

After their plan to rescue the Prince of Gallica has gone horribly wrong, Will Treaty and his apprentice, Maddie, are being held captive at the Chateau des Falaises in Gallica. The dangerous baron, Lassigny, is intent on keeping them—and the prince—no matter what. But Will and Maddie are determined to escape.

If they ever want to return to their home, they’ll have to find ways to outwit the baron and get outside the locked tower. When friends from home endeavor to find their own way to help, it seems escape is closer than ever. But the dirty tricks of the baron are no laughing matter.

Facing dangerous threats, battles with knights, and a new and risky plot to save the prince, the odds are stacked against them. But the Rangers will use all the tools of their trade to save themselves and save the day.

Escape from Falaise concludes the story arc that began in The Missing Prince. In this installment, Horace and Halt join in the effort to free Maddie and Will. Even though the two Rangers successfully escape the castle, they go back in to finish their mission—free the Gallican prince, Giles. The story highlights the qualities of an honorable leader by using Lassigny and the Gallican king to demonstrate examples of abuse of power. The political intrigue is interesting and introduces a new twist to the Royal Ranger Series.

 One positive aspect of the story is that the Rangers go out of their way to avoid killing someone. For example, Lassigny’s guards use deadly force to try to stop Maddie and Giles from escaping the castle. Despite this, Will and Halt try to incapacitate the guards instead of killing them. Another positive aspect of the story is the camaraderie and respect among the rangers. Even though Maddie is significantly younger than Will and Halt, both men listen to her and take her opinion into consideration. Plus, they trust her to save Giles even though she must do it alone.

Readers who fell in love with the characters in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy seeing them in a new light. While the story focuses on Maddie’s role as a ranger, Halt, Horace, and Will play a major role in the story’s plot. Because the Royal Ranger Series is an extension of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series readers will want to read it before they jump into Flanagan’s companion series, the Brotherband Chronicles. If you’re looking for a book series with honorable characters who demonstrate loyalty, courage, and perseverance, all of Flanagan’s series will hit the mark.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Armand, one of the king’s senior officers, is “unpopular among the servants” because he “wasn’t above physical punishment for those who attracted his anger. He was free with his fist when it came to the male servants and had been known to lash out at some of the female staff with the short riding whip he always carried.”
  • Armand and Maddie have a duel. Maddie “let fly with two rapid shots, smashing the lead-weighted hardwood arrowhead into the heavy iron helmet. . .” During the fight, Maddie uses her arrows repeatedly. “Three massive blows slammed against Armand’s helmet, deafening him, blurring his sight and hurling him sideways to the right. . .” Maddies’ horse Bumper charges Armand’s roan “shoving him upward and sideways.” Armand falls of the horse, ending the battle.
  • To escape from captivity, Halt, Will and Maddie hide in a stable. When the stablemaster is about to see them, “an iron-hard arm clamped around his throat from behind. The stablemaster gave a short, startled gasp. . .He struggled wildly for a minute or so, but Halt’s grip was relentless, tightening further and further, cutting off the air to the man’s lungs.” When the stablemaster is unconscious, Halt ties him up.
  • While trying to leave the castle, a solider attempts to stop Halt, but his horse Tug “set his shoulder and thudded into the man, knocking the halberd from his grasp, and sending him crashing against the stone wall . . .Fortunately for the guard, he was wearing chain mail and a helmet, as his head slammed into the stonework. His eyes glazed and he slid down the wall, semiconscious.”
  • When Will and Maddie escape, Lassigny gets angry and orders someone to flog several of the soldiers.
  • Maddie sneaks into Lassigny’s castle to free Giles, who is being held captive. While they are sneaking out of the castle, Maddie uses her sling to incapacitate two guards. “The smooth, round stone slammed into the guard’s forehead . . . He gave a startled grunt, threw out his arms and crashed over. . .” Then Maddie throws a stone at the other guard. “The impact of the stone on the man’s head. . . was sickening. Like his comrade, the guard threw out his arms and collapsed backward onto the floor.” Maddie checks the men, who are unconscious but breathing.
  • When Giles is moaning in fear, Maddie “drew back a hand and slapped him hard across the cheek. Instantly, he sat up, his eyes wide-open. . . The moaning stopped.” Later, to escape, Maddie hit Giles again, knocking him unconscious.
  • As Maddie and Giles are escaping the castle, soldiers spot them. Halt shoots at the men. “Maddie saw another guard on the battlement go down.”
  • When Lassigny and his soldiers start leaving the castle, Will and Halt shoot arrows. “The results were devastation. The three riders in the front rank behind Lassigny were plucked from their saddles. Two of them lay where they fell.”
  • Lassigny challenges Horace to a “fair combat.” Lassigny charges Horace. “Lassigny, prepared to resist an upward flick, was caught unprepared for the powerful downward force of Horace’s stroke. The point of his lance was hammered violently down, so that it slammed into the ground. . .Then the lance shaft could bend no further and it shivered into splinters, and he fell, crashing down on his back.”
  • Lassigny recovers and attacks Horace with his sword. When Horace “delivered stroke after stroke,” Lassigny’s arm “was numbed by the impact and his knees buckled beneath him, forcing him to give ground.” After Lassigny gives up, Horace turns his back. Lassigny’s “face was a mask of hatred as he stepped towards Horace’s unprotected back, raising the dagger for a treacherous killing stroke. The three Rangers shot within the same heartbeat. Three arrows thudded into Lassigny, the force of the triple impact hurling him sideways.” The scene is described over five pages.
  • The king orders his brother to be executed for treason.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • During a meal, alcohol is served, but “Maddie didn’t drink alcohol, and Will only imbibed sparingly.”
  • At another meal, alcohol is served. “Will signaled that he would have a glass. Maddie opted for water.”
  • When Will and Maddie are being held prisoner in the castle, they are served wine.
  • When Maddie sneaks the prince out of the castle, she waits for two men to move off the stairs. The men “were sitting and passing a flask of wine back and forth.”
  • While eating with the king, wine is served.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Big Freeze

The time has come for Princess Lina to choose her magical weather specialty. Her cousin, Jack Frost, makes amazing snowflakes. Her Uncle Lee forms ice caves in glaciers. Her Great-Aunt Sunder creates winter storms on polar seas. Everyone has chosen something so impressive. Lina’s not sure what she’s going to do—but she’s determined to make her mark in a big way! 

To complicate matters, Lina’s teacher has assigned an art project. Lina is disappointed that she can’t use science because she isn’t artistic. Everything Lina tries turns out to be a big mess. After several failed attempts to create art, Lina uses magic to make her project, but she wonders if that is cheating. Lina thinks, “One of Ms. Collier’s rules was that we were supposed to do our projects without any help. But she didn’t say anything about using magic, right?” 

The Big Freeze is told from Lina’s point of view, which helps readers understand her conflicts. Readers will relate to Lina’s difficulty at school and her desire to make her family proud. Lina writes in her diary often, which allows the readers to understand her thoughts and feelings. Lina’s best friend, Claudie, also tries to help Lina by giving advice. The two girls’ friendship is sweet and Claudie’s words are always encouraging and positive. 

One of the reasons Lina has difficulty completing her project is because she wants it to be perfect. In the end, instead of copying someone else’s art form or turning in a project that was made by magic, Lina writes a poem and turns it in late. Lina learns that “there’s no such thing as a perfect piece of art” and that she “needed to cut [herself] some slack.” 

Readers will be drawn into the book because of the cute illustrations that appear in black, white, and light green. The illustrations appear on almost every page and the pictures help readers understand the plot because they show Lina’s activities. The Big Freeze uses simple vocabulary, plus several pages contain a list. The paragraphs contain three or fewer sentences and have a variety of graphic elements to break the text into small portions. The easy-to-read story has relatable conflicts and interesting characters. Lina’s grandfather is a major character, and he has a “big, booming voice [that] can get a little intense.” To emphasize how loud Lina’s grandfather is, his words appear in large green font and all capitals.  

Readers who love princesses and magic will find The Big Freeze to be an entertaining book. The end of the book gives directions on how to make a snowflake that has “the power of patterns.” Both parents and children will be pleased with the kind and encouraging characters who don’t expect each other to be perfect. For more magical reading that has kind characters check out the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman and the Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None

Supernatural 

  • Everyone in Lina’s family has a magical power. Her mom and grandfather are Windtamers and can control the weather. “Mom’s job is to bring the spring rains. Granddad is the North Wind.” 
  • Lina is a Winterheart, “which means my powers are all about ice and snow.” 
  • Lina uses her magic to make a perfect ice sculpture of herself. She also uses her magic to make it snow.

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Missing Prince

Will Treaty and his apprentice, Maddie, have been urgently summoned to Castle Araluen. When they arrive, they learn a shocking truth: the Prince of Gallica is missing—and the King of Gallica has asked for help. All reports suggest that the young prince has been taken prisoner by the dangerous and powerful Baron Joubert de Lassigny. King Duncan knows that sending troops to Gallica to rescue the prince could start a war, as could openly helping Gallica resolve internal conflict. But there’s another way to save the prince: the Ranger Corps.

Soon, Will and Maddie are on the road to rescue the missing prince, disguised as father and daughter jongleurs. Maddie will have to use her knife throwing skills to keep up her disguise, and her ranger’s apprentice training to complete the mission. But going undercover is dangerous—and the road presents its own hazards. Can she and Will use all of their talents to save the prince, or will the arrogant Baron uncover their plans and put their lives– and their kingdom– at risk?

Unlike the other books in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, The Missing Prince is missing action. For most of the story, Will and Maddie are traveling to the castle where the Prince of Gallica is being held captive. Along the way, Will and Maddie face bandits which adds excitement to the story. However, their trip drags and when the two finally reach their destination, the book suddenly ends leaving the reader wondering what will happen in the next book, Escape from Falaise.

Will and Maddie are admirable characters who willingly face danger in an attempt to free the missing prince. However, the book’s slow start focuses more on the political reasons to help the Gallican prince. In addition, Maddie’s mother is reluctant to let Maddie go on a ranger mission. Readers may quickly become bored with the political and parental aspects of the story. Despite this, fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be happy that Will Treaty plays a major role in The Missing Prince.

Some of the story’s plot feels redundant because Will again disguises himself as a jongleur. Despite this, fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy Will and Maddie’s relationship and the two working together. Plus, the conclusion has several surprises and leaves readers with several unanswered questions. Even though The Missing Prince lacks the action of other books, the cliffhanger will have readers reaching for Escape from Falaise.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • To stop a band of thieves, Will dresses like an old farmer. When the thieves see Will, they try to stop him. Will shoots an arrow and “Jem was down, rolling in agony on the ground and clutching an arrow that had transfixed his left calf.”
  • One of the bandits, Barton, tries to hit Will, who lifts the man and throws him. “Barton landed with a heavy thud, flat on his back. . . When he recovered, he found himself looking along the blade of a very sharp saxe knife, which pricked the soft skin of his throat.” Will and Maddie take the men to the local law.
  • While Will and Maddie are entertaining, thieves appear and demand everyone’s money. A young man tries to intervene, but “the bandit leader stepped in close to him and swung the butt of the crossbow so that it slammed into Simon’s forehead.” The man is injured.
  • As the thieves are celebrating their newfound wealth, the leader “held his bottle up prior to drinking from it. Will’s arrow smashed through it, showering the drunken bandit chief with wine and shattered fragments of glass, before thudding, quivering into a log lying ready by the fire.” To take down the bandit leader, Maddie “whipped the sling up and over and the lead shot hissed through the air across the clearing, striking Vincent’s skull behind the ear with an ugly thud. The bandit’s eyes glazed, and he let out a sickly little moan. . . he crashed to the forest floor, stunned.” The scene is described over four pages.
  • While Will and Maddie are restraining the bandits, “a man rose onto one knee and leveled the crossbow.” Will sees the movement and “he drew his throwing knife and sent it spinning across the clearing. . .the knife hit him in the center of his chest.”
  • While searching the castle tower for the missing prince, “a burly figure” sees Maddie. When the man grabs her, “she suddenly stepped toward him. . .she grabbed a handful of tunic, bent her legs and shoved her backside into his body.” She then knees him in the groin and runs.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Will and Maddie pose as jongleurs and perform in local taverns. The customers often drink wine and ale. When they eat at the castle, ale and wine are also served.
  • A man who has been following Will and Maddie goes into a tavern and is “nursing a tankard of ale.”
  • After the thieves rob the townspeople, they hide in the forest. The eight men were “sprawled around the camp. They stole some wine from the tavern last night and they’re all drinking.” The men turn into a “nosy, drunken group.”
  • Will and Maddie see a peddler who had “casks of ale and wine.”

Language

  • A man thinks that the Gallic king is a “pompous prat.”
  • Damn is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

 Little Red Rodent Hood

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is a fearsome warrior. To her parents’ disappointment, Harriet takes any reason to leave her home… but this time a quest finds her. Red, a young hamster from the nearby forest, asks Harriet and Wilbur for help. The weasel-wolves have been getting rowdy, and she needs help to put an end to their antics. Harriet is more than willing to take up Red’s request, though Red is pushy.

Red tells Harriet and Wilbur not to talk to any of the weasel-wolves during their trek. Hoping to get another perspective, the two hamsters go behind Red’s back and speak to Grey, a were-hamster and the leader of the forest weasel-wolves. While Grey asks for help, Harriet and Wilbur realize that Red was not as sweet as she let them—well, Wilbur—believe.

Little Red Rodent Hood uses the story elements of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, to create a humorous and fun adventure that will have readers turning the pages. Harriet goes on the quest, eager to get out of the castle but wary of Red because of the little girl’s indifference to the dangerous weasel-wolves. As Harriet and Wilbur go through the forest, they discover Red has been kidnapping the weasel-wolves for her Grandmother, who sells them to other rodents who want weasel-wolves as pets. Out of all the antagonists that Harriet has faced, Grandmother is one of the scariest, as she is rough and intimidating. However, readers will enjoy seeing how Harriet defeats Grandmother and frees the weasel-wolves.

Throughout Harriet and Wilbur’s time in the forest, there are multiple instances where recurring jokes overstay their welcome. Harriet asks Grey to bite her so she can become a were-weasel. Her request is innocent at first, but her demands get exhausting. This joke plays off Wilbur’s excessive caution and Harriet’s bravery. Still, Harriet goes to the extreme, to the point where she sticks her hand out in front of Grey’s mouth when he tries to get powdered silver out of his eyes. Harriet’s brashness adds a new dynamic to the conversations between her and her friends but distracts from the story because the humor does not add to Harriet’s character or the overall plot.

Blue and white illustrations add to the wackiness of the book. Drawings with dialogue balloons help break up the text and keep the action moving. Despite the lackluster humor, Little Red Rodent Hood shows the value of teamwork and will engage even the most reluctant readers. Little Red Rodent Hood is the sixth book in the Hamster Princess Series but can be enjoyed as a standalone book. Younger readers who enjoy Little Red Rodent Hood may also want to try Ursula Vernon’s other humorous series, Dragonbreath.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Grey tries to catch Red, she throws powdered silver in Grey’s face. “Grey let out a high-pitched yelp and folded up as if he’d struck a wall.” Grey gets drowsy, but the powdered silver burns and stings because were-hamsters and were-weasels are weak against silver.
  • Harriet fights Grandmother so she can take Grandmother back to the castle. “Harriet dealt Grandmother a fearsome blow that would have stopped any lesser monster. . . Harriet blocked claws and teeth with her sword, but now it was Grandmother’s turn to drive her backward, inch by inch.” Grandmother slaps Harriet’s sword out of her hands and whacks Harriet alongside the head. “Harriet crashed down next to Grey. . .” She is dazed because of the blow to the head. Grandmother lifts her clawed hands, but then Red hypnotizes Grandmother, ending the fight. Grandmother is a weasel-wolf and has invincibility, so she does not get hurt from Harriet’s attack. The fight has sections where Wilbur talks to Red or tries to wake up Grey, but the fight itself occurs over eight pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Red was born with “hypnotic eyes” which she uses to hypnotize anyone who makes eye contact with her. Red can make people fall asleep; the victim has temporary double vision if she cannot make them fall asleep.
  • Red uses her hypnotic eyes on Harriet. “Harriet tried to look away, but there was something strange going on. Red’s hypnotic eyes seemed to fill the entire world. Harriet tried to grab her sword, but it felt as if she were moving through molasses.”

Spiritual Content

  • The weasel-wolf packs gather on the first day of the new moon to perform the Howl. “The moon vanishes once a month, you know, during the dark of the moon, and when it comes back, we all howl to greet it.”

by Jemima Cooke

Disney Frozen Polar Nights: Cast Into Darkness

Two months after the events of Frozen 2, the Arendelle sisters are still adjusting to their new roles. Elsa rules over the Enchanted Forest but admits, “even now that I’ve taken my place among the spirits, magic isn’t always easy.”  Meanwhile, Anna is newly engaged and new queen of Arendelle. While in the midst of planning for the annual Polar Night’s Festival, Anna takes a break to visit her sister alongside Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven. Around a campfire, Kristoff recalls the legend of a different pair of royal sisters, how one drowned the other in a jealous rage. The murdered sister arose as a zombified creature—a draugr—a “‘soulless monster ready to seek revenge against those who did it wrong.’”

After Kristoff finishes the story, a mysterious storm blows in, and when he and Anna return to Arendelle the next day, something is amiss. Storms keep coming, the sky grows darker and darker, and everyone seems to be losing their memories. It seems the draugr from the story is real and after them. Anna and Elsa must embark on a quest to figure out how to stop the creature before it’s too late.

Disney Frozen Polar Nights is told from the alternating third-person perspectives of Elsa (written by Mancusi) and Anna (written by Calonita). The two authors seamlessly blend the chapters and the story flows well. The reader gets a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of both sisters and is able to have a better understanding of their relationship with each other as a result. Through the characters’ actions, the franchise’s theme of sisterhood and the importance of family are brightly showcased.

Anna, Elsa, and the other characters stay true to how they were portrayed in the films. The bond between the sisters is well illustrated, and their dynamic is charming, with Anna being more impulsive and Elsa being more grounded. Because of their differences, they balance each other out and bring out the best in each other. Anna’s romance with Kristoff is also very sweet, and it’s charming to watch them interact because they show how much they care about each other.

The plot revolves around Anna and Elsa figuring out the truth of what happened between the sisters from Kristoff’s story. It is a bit predictable that the circumstances around the death of the younger sister differ dramatically from the story that spread, and that this misinformation is the primary cause of the spiritual unrest. However, the journey is still enjoyable and is certain to captivate the target demographic.

Fans of Frozen will be swept up in this story that so vividly captures the Frozen world and characters. Disney Frozen Polar Night is a dramatic tale, but characters like Olaf provide some humor along the way to balance things out. The spooky story contains some imagery and tense moments that might be scary for certain readers. However, readers who appreciate monsters and mystery will enjoy the familiar characters and simple plot. Readers who are looking for kid-friendly ghost stories should add The Trail of the Ghost Bunny by Linda Joy Singleton to their reading list. Readers who love fairytale-inspired stories can jump into other fairytales by reading the Whatever After Series by Sarah Mlynowski.

Sexual Content

  • Anna and Kristoff kiss multiple times. The kisses are not described in detail. For example, the most detailed description depicts Kristoff “kissing her deeply” during an emotional reunion between the two at the end.

 Violence

  • Kristoff tells a legend of sisters Inger and Sissel. In a jealous rage, Inger “snuck behind [Sissel] and shoved her in [a river].” Inger watches as Sissel went over a waterfall and drowned.
  • While running from the draugr, Anna hits her head on a rock and injures her ankle. Elsa notes the “blood crusting in her sister’s hair.”
  • Elsa nearly drowns after falling into a river. As the current drags Elsa, she was “gulping river water too fast, choking and sputtering as she [tries] to find the river’s bottom . . . her feet only [kick] uselessly.” Anna saves her.
  • Elsa and Anna witness a vision of Sissel’s drowning. The vision reveals that the drowning was in fact accidental. Sissel tried to hold onto a branch by the riverbank for support but “the branch broke free. Sissel’s body was tossed like a rag doll over the [waterfall]. Inger screamed in agony, collapsing to the ground.”
  • A pirate ship shoots cannonballs at a ship that Anna and Elsa are on. Elsa needs to get to the ship to deliver a message. She rides there on the Nokk (a horse-shaped water spirit) while fighting the onslaught with her ice powers. “The cannonballs hit the ice in front of them . . . shattering [them] into a thousand pieces.” Elsa manages to get to the ship unscathed and stop the attack. The attack is described over four pages.
  • Plagued by memory loss, an Arendellian general named Mattias draws his sword and attempts to attack Sissel (still in the form of a draugr). He says, “I will slash you down where you stand.” As he charges Sissel, Elsa shoots an ice wall in front of him. He bounces “off the ice, falling backward and landing hard on the ground,” stopping from harming Sissel. He is not seriously injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Elsa lives in the Enchanted Forest, home to the wind, fire, water, and air spirits who appear at certain points throughout the story. The fire spirit Bruni, for example, takes the form of a salamander that can catch fire at will.
  • The plot revolves around Sissel’s spirit coming back as a vengeful creature known as a draugr. Draugrs are “creatures of old folklore, and they supposedly cause terrible storms when they show up.” The draugr “haunts Arendelle and [steals] memories to try and make people stop thinking [her sister] murdered her.”
  • The group hears mysterious moaning in the night and when they go to investigate, their tent is knocked down by an apparent supernatural force.
  • The draugr appears to Anna and Elsa. It is described as “clearly human shaped . . . [with] blackened skin, misshapen bones . . . and green slime oozing from its pores.” The creature calls for its sister, and Anna and Elsa attempt to fight it off before running. It eventually vanishes but appears to the sisters a couple more times. It never harms them.
  • Eventually, Anna learns that the draugr isn’t really a ghost, but rather a “reanimated, decayed corpse… [that] didn’t receive a proper burial.”

Spiritual

  • None

Ratpunzel

Harriet does not like sitting around her house, so when her friend, Prince Wilbur, tells her that he needs help finding his hydra’s stolen egg, Harriet is more than willing to accept the quest. During their search, they come across a friend of Prince Wilbur’s mother, Dame Gothel, and a tower where a rat princess with a long tail lives, named Ratpunzel. While trying to find the stolen hydra egg, the two hamsters try to gain the princess’s trust and find out more about the dame, but there is more than what initially meets the eye when it comes to this quest.

Ratpunzel uses the story elements of Rapunzel to create a humorous and fun adventure that will have readers eagerly turning the pages. Harriet takes the quest, happy to help her friends and leave the castle. As Harriet and Prince Wilbur go on their adventure, they discover that Dame Gothel is an evil witch. Gothel makes Ratpunzel cry and then uses her tears to turn every visitor into a wooden statue so Ratpunzel cannot escape the tower. Ratpunzel’s tears are an important part of Gothel’s magic because they come from a magical maiden “true and fair,” so Gothel keeps the princess close. Gothel is scary yet funny, and the readers will enjoy seeing how Harriet will foil the witch’s plan and get the hydra’s egg back.

On one of the hamsters’ visits to Ratpunzel’s tower, they learn that Ratpunzel cooks food to pass the time, but she does not know that no one likes it since everyone is polite to her. On top of that, she is optimistic about becoming a good chef, despite her odd dishes consisting of “fish-flake ice cream,” “asparagus waffles,” “sugar-and-shrimp pancakes,” and more! Ratpunzel’s interjections about her peculiar cooking add hilarity to the adventure.

Blue and white illustrations add to the wackiness of the book. Drawings with dialogue balloons help break up the text and keep the action moving. Ratpunzel shows the value of teamwork and will engage even the most reluctant readers. Ratpunzel is the third book in the Hamster Princess Series but can be enjoyed as a standalone book. With an unconventional heroine and many hilarious moments, Ratpunzel is a story that delights and amuses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Weasel-wolves attack Harriet, Wilbur, and the battle quails. Harriet fought a weasel-wolf one on one, but “she didn’t have to do anything. She just held her sword up and the weasel-wolf’s jump carried it right into the pommel, cracking itself in the forehead.” When the weasel-wolf hit the pommel, it “fell on the ground.” The fight continues for two pages.
  • Another weasel-wolf shows up and tries to bite a battle quail, but he ends up with a mouthful of tail feathers. The battle quail spins around and kicks the weasel-wolf. The battle quail’s “legs shot out—one-two—and lifted the weasel-wolf off its feet. It [the weasel-wolf] flew through the air [and] bounced off a tree trunk.” Finally, the weasel-wolf ran away; the rest of the weasel-wolves ran away too. The fight lasts for two pages.
  • Ratpunzel hits Dame Gothel with a hydra eggshell. “WHACK! . . .And then [Dame Gothel] slumped over into the grass, knocked out cold.” Later, Dame Gothel wakes up groggy.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Gothel turns Wilbur into a wooden statue using Ratpunzel’s tears. “Harriet heard a sploosh! a thud! and a very loud SNAP! . . . It was unmistakably Wilbur. It looked like a perfect wooden carving, down to the individual strands of hair and nails on his hands and his alarmed expression.”
  • Gothel traps Harriet with vines. “Green bands were snaking up her legs and were holding her in place. She swatted at the vines with her hands, and they whipped out and twined around her arms.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jemima Cooke

The Red Fox Clan

Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story featuring young apprentice Maddie and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen.

After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by her role as a princess of the realm and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists who don fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen, and they question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they unseat Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves?

In order to set up the conflict, the book’s chapters alternate between different points of view —Madelyn’s, Horace’s, and Gilan’s. In addition, The Red Fox Clan introduces new characters and brings some characters from the Brotherband Series into Madelyn’s world. The introduction of characters and conflict slows the pacing because there is little action. However, readers who have already become fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy seeing familiar characters from a different perspective.

Like all the Ranger’s Apprentice books, The Red Fox Clan ends with an epic battle. Even though the Araluen must fight the rebel Red Fox Clan, they do not kill for the fun of it. Several times in the battle, the Ranger Gilan has the opportunity to kill enemy fighters, but he chooses not to. After one fierce battle, the rebels begin to retreat and Gilan stops his men from shooting at the fleeing enemy. While men die, the story never glorifies killing others. Instead, Gilan chooses to show mercy to the enemy.

The start of The Red Fox Clan has little action or adventure; however, readers will be glad they continued reading because of the exciting conclusion. The conclusion does not resolve any of the story’s conflicts but instead ends with a cliffhanger. Readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, Duel at Araluen. Despite having 14 books in the original series, readers will find The Royal Ranger Series’ action isn’t stale and repetitious; instead, Maddie’s struggle varies enough that readers will still be guessing what will happen next. Readers who love action, adventure, and noble characters will enjoy The Royal Ranger Series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Maddie and Ingrid are traveling to Castle Araluen when two robbers stop them and demand their valuables. Maddie shoots a lead shot at one of the robbers and hits his bow. “The broken limb flew loose, and then stopped by the string, flicked back and smacked the man across the jaw, raising a bleeding weal there. He cried out and staggered back. . .” The man grabs his knife and Maddie shoots again. The shot “hit him on the point of his shoulder, smashing the bone and bruising the flesh.”
  • One of the robbers “swing[s] wildly with the cudgel” trying to knock Ingrid off the horse. “Ingrid leaned out of the saddle, wielding the riding crop and bringing the heavy stone pommel crashing down on top of his leather cap . . . his eyes glazed and he simply folded up like an empty suit of clothes.” The man is knocked unconscious.
  • When one of the robbers tries to flee, Maggie’s horse “slammed his. . .The impact sent the man tumbling in the grass, rolling over several times before beginning to rise, groggily to his feet.” The man takes out his knife and goes after the horse, so Maddie uses her sling to shoot the man. “The scream was torn from him as the lead shot slammed into his forearm, breaking the bones there.” The men are tied up and taken to the jail of a nearby village. The scene with the robbers is described over 3 ½ pages.
  • The Foxes, a rebel group of men, attack an Araluen army as they forge a river. The Araluen army shoots a volley of arrows. Four of the enemies “screamed and fell. Another volley slammed into the enemy formation. More men fell.” At the end of the battle, the Foxes “were nursing their wounds and reluctant to move from the cover of the trees. . .eleven of their comrades lay where they had fallen.” The attack is described over four pages.
  • The rebels again send men to cross the river. The Ranger Gilan’s “arrow plunged down in a shallow arc and struck the lead swimmer in the right shoulder. The man let out a cry of agony and stopped swimming.” The man survives, but another rebel is “hit in the chest . . . he cried out once, threw up his hands and sank without a further sound.” Another rebel is injured when an arrow hit “his arm with its razor-sharp warhead, and blood started reddening the water around him.” After one man dies and three are injured, the rebels retreat. The skirmish is described over three pages.
  • As the Araluen army flees, the Ranger Gilan stays at the river. When the rebels send a man across the river, Gilan shoots an arrow but the next “arrow was even quicker. It slammed into the unprotected breastplate with the full force of Gilan’s massive bow behind it. . . ripped through the breastplate and into the man’s body.” When Gilan begins shooting “a volley of six arrows” the enemy retreats.
  • The Foxes again attack the Araluen army. Someone shoots at one of the leaders. “The arrow flew in a whimpering paragola, then struck home in the center of the rider’s chest, hurling him backward over the horse’s rump and leaving him lying still on the grass.”
  • During the skirmish, one of the Foxes’ sergeants looks at his men, and “the man next to him fell with an arrow through the top of his leather helmet.” The Foxes quickly retreat into the woods.
  • The Araluen army hides out in an old fort. The rebels stage an attack, trying to climb over the walls. “The bows thrummed with the ugly sound of release, and a few seconds later, six arrows slammed into the men crouched downhill.” As the arrows hit the men, they “cried out in pain and staggered back, clutching at the cruel barbed shafts that transfixed them.”
  • During the attack, Horace and a Fox commander fight. The commander “hacked wildly at Horace. There was a ringing clash of steel on steel as the two blades met. . . Horace’s sword darted out, fast as a striking viper. The super-hardened, razor-sharp blade cut through the man’s chainmail overshirt as if it wasn’t there . . . Horace jerked his sword free and rammed his shield into him. The Fox commander fell backward. . . crashing into the men on the ladder behind him.”
  • As the rebels begin to retreat, “the archers took up their bows again and began to pick them off as they slipped and staggered down the hill. Gilan shook his head wearily, sick of the slaughter.” Gilan orders his men to stop shooting. The battle is described over six pages.
  • Maddie was spying on the Fox Clan. Someone sees her and the men give chase. Maddie runs. As men charged toward her, “a shaggy form burst around the corner of the church, behind the men. Maddie’s horse, Bumper, slammed his shoulder into him and sent him flying. He dealt with a second in the same way, crashing into him with a sickening thud.” Maddie is able to escape.
  • The Red Fox Clan enters the castle through a bridge. “The rider drew his sword and cut left and right, killing them where they stood.”
  • Damon, the Red Fox Clan leader, tries to catch the queen. When the queen sees Damon, he has a “blood stained sword in hand and blood staining his doublet.”
  • In order to protect the queen, Maikeru and two men sword fight. One man “lunged at Maikeru. . . His sword was deflected immediately, and as he staggered slighty, the katana slashed quickly across his neck and he fell, a choked scream rising to his lips. His companion watched in horror. . . Maikeru went on the attack. Once again the deadly katana found its mark and sliced through chain mail and flesh. The second man fell, lifeless to the bridge.”
  • After Maikeru kills several men, the Red Fox Clan leader orders his men to kill him with arrows. “The two bows thrummed almost in the same instant. . . But the other [arrow] slammed into his chest, high on the right side. . . The two men shot again and two more arrows slammed into him, both hitting vital spots.” Even though Maikeru dies, the queen is able to get to safety because of him. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When the queen and her staff are safely closed up in a castle tower, Damon and his men try to smoke them out. When that doesn’t work, a man tries to use a ladder like a bridge to enter the room. Using her sling, Queen Cassandra attacks. “The shot slammed into [the attacker’s] left knee with a sickening crack and smashing bone and tendons.” The man falls to his death. Several men are killed in the same way.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a festival, “barrels of wine and ale were propped up on trestles to ease the collective thirst.”

Language

  • Maddie is upset that a “damn nanny goat nuzzled [her cowl] aside and started chomping.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A man wants to start a rebellion. He tells the crowd, “For thousands of years, our country was guided by a law that said only a male heir could succeed to the throne. . . And it was a law that respected the will of the gods.” A man wonders why people “accepted so readily the concept that this was a law approved by the gods.”

Ravenous 

Traveling on her house with chicken legs, a witch has arrived in the city of Bryre, and she is ravenous for children. While Greta is at the castle of Bryre, the witch captures her bother, Hans. Greta refuses to let the witch have her brother—after her parents disappeared, her brother is the only family she has left—and they strike a deal. The witch will give back Hans if Greta brings her something, a magical item the witch desires.

However, the Bryrian king thinks Greta is lying about her brother. When she ventures out on her own, a village of hybrids captures her, pausing her progress. With the help of a magical half-boy and half-horse named Dalen, Greta travels to Belladoma—a kingdom that once held her captive—to find the magic item. Mercenaries block their path, and the Sonzeeki, an ancient, tentacled sea creature, is getting restless. In the middle of the chaos is a family secret that can help Greta save Belladoma and defeat the Sonzeeki.

Set in the kingdom of Belladoma and its surrounding area, each chapter follows Greta’s perspective. The kingdom of Belladoma overlooks the sea; the streets are dark and depressing due to the mercenaries and the Sonzeeki’s terrorizing of the castle town. The first page of every chapter is decorated with alternating pictures of Greta, the Sonzeeki, Dalen, and the witch, allowing the reader to visualize the characters. While the narration is limited to Greta’s perspective, readers will relate to her determination and wit. Though she is weaker and smaller than the leader of the mercenaries, she uses her “swiftness” and her “ability to not let go” to best him in a fight.

Throughout Ravenous, Greta changes her opinion about Belladoma. She realizes they are her people since they had been affected by the former king’s and the mercenaries’ rule just like she had. She had assumed that Belladoma, and by extension its people, was bad because her captors had taken her there as food for the Sonzeeki; she thought the people were complicit with the captors. The dynamic between Dalen and Greta is lovely. At first, they’re enemies, but they connect over puzzles and stories and become friends. Dalen is one of the people that helped Greta realize that the people of Belladoma are “not bad people. They’re victims too.”

Ravenous is reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and has elements of Baba Yaga. The story is an original and engaging retelling that adds a spin to the classics. There are a few instances of graphic violence and many acts of magic scattered throughout the story. The way the adults treat Greta is deplorable because they think she is incapable, then change their minds when she defeats them. The mercenaries look down on Greta due to her age, then perceive her as a threat after she wins against their boss, Vincali—to them, she is not “a mere child.” The lesson is this: do not underestimate people because of uncontrollable factors. Readers who enjoy reading Ravenous will also enjoy the companion book, Monstrous.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the hybrids capture Greta, the lead centaur “yanks [Greta] and pins [Greta’s] arms behind [her] back.” He shoves Greta into the cage.
  • Greta fights Vincali, leader of the mercenaries, for the cornucopia. “Then, I leap to my feet and brandish my weapon at him . . . [the leader of the mercenaries] lunges and tries to knock the sword from my hands . . . I duck and parry, then manage a swipe.” The leader of the mercenaries “comes at me faster. . . I evade the blow again. . . I parry blow for blow.” When they get into the center of town, their fight ends. Their fight lasts for two pages.
  • After rescuing her brother, Greta fights the witch. “One [of the witch’s floating hands] grabs at my cloak and lifts me up.” Then Greta swings “at it with [her] sword and land[s] a glancing blow,” from which, “the hand makes what sounds like a shriek and drops [her].”
  • After figuring out the witch’s weak spot, Greta, “leaps up and grabs one of the legs [of the witch’s house] . . . I take my sword and, swatting at the hand again, jab the blade up into the belly of the house. I twist and turn it until one of the bricks comes loose.” The witch materializes in front of Greta and “squeezes her hands around [Greta’s] neck,” while Greta uses a magic amulet to burn the house. The witch’s house “explodes in a blast of fire, feathers, and blinding light” and the witch burns as well. Her body “turns pitch black with cracks of red fire—then nothing remains but falling ash.” The fight scene lasts for five pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • While in the castle at Belladoma, Greta sees “two wine glasses.”
  • A couple of girls in the castle were “bringing ale” to the mercenaries, who “get more and more drunk and gamble away their spoils.” The mercenaries drink a lot of ale.

Language

  • One of the mercenaries calls Greta a “fool.”

Supernatural

  • The witch owns a walking house. “The house moves in a pattern, a figure eight that brings it close to the edge of the woods.”
  • In the story, there is a magical item known as the cornucopia. “It is the form of a horn-shaped basket. One merely has to touch it and think about what food one desires, and the meal will appear in the cornucopia.”
  • The witch teleports Greta outside of the walking house. The witch “snaps her fingers and [Greta finds herself] standing outside the chicken hut, watching it retreat into the woods at a breakneck pace . . .”
  • The witch sets part of the village on fire. “She snaps her fingers, and a surge of magic singes the air. In a flash, flames being to devour the great tree in the middle of the village.” A few of the villagers had been burnt and some had fits of coughing after inhaling the smoke.
  • Dalen and Greta must use alchemic symbols to solve a riddle. “Each triangle corresponded to an element and exposing it to that element reveals the real map.” The only effect on the map is revealing more locations where King Ensel hid the cornucopia.
  • Greta uses potions on herself. “Each potion has a purpose. . . but I have no idea whether these even work, let alone what sort of combustible interactions they might have if used together.” The only side effects that Greta has when using the potions are dizziness and feeling more addicted to the magic.
  • The leader of the mercenaries uses an amulet to create fire. “The amulet’s fire goes wide, scorching the brick wall.”
  • Greta sets the witch’s house on fire with the amulet. “The chicken hut erupts into flame, flaring high with an audible pop, reaching up to the tops of the trees in the grove.”
  • The witch throws Dalen with “three disembodied hands that have materialized in the air and hang there, seeming to wait on the witch for instruction.”

Spiritual Content

  • Dalen talks about the creation story of hybrids. “The Phoenix Queen, mother of us all. She cast the spell that allowed our varied species to be created. . . Every fifty years, her mortal form would burst into flames, and she would be reborn from the ashes. . . But the last time she did not come back. Legends says her ashes scattered to the winds, dripping magic across the lands.”

by Jemima Cooke

The Crystal Rose

The snow sisters’ parents have been kidnapped by the Shadow Witch! The only way to save them is to find the orbs containing the magical Everchanging Lights before the witch steals the lights’ power for herself. But the Shadow Witch, Veronika, will do anything to reach the lights first.

On their second quest, the girls face a dark, icy journey to find the crystal rose and the blue orb. Will their magic be strong enough to overcome the Great Glacier and all the dangers hidden there?

The beautiful cover with three sisters and a pet polar bear will draw readers into the story. However, the magical sisters who face non-frightening danger will captivate readers. The second installment of The Snow Sisters Series has the three sisters—Hanna, Ida, and Magda—racing through a dangerous, icy landscape. The girls’ magic helps them stay safe from the Shadow Witch and even Oskar, the girls’ pet polar bear, helps them along their way.

Even though their mother has instructed them to search for the orb, the girls do not tell anyone about their quest. Instead, they sneak out of the castle and borrow horses without permission. At the end of the quest, their governess, Madame Olga, sees the girls coming in from outside. “Madame Olga hadn’t realized they had been out all night. She just thought they’d gotten up early and been out in the garden.” The girls allow Madame Olga to believe the falsehood.

The Crystal Rose has charming black and white drawings that help readers follow the plot. The large illustrations appear every 1 to 4 pages. Throughout their journey, the sisters show bravery and use problem-solving skills. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses, magic, and snow.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Magda uses her magic to turn into a mouse. When the cook sees the mouse, she “grabbed a broom and swept it angrily at Magda. . .Magda dodged the broom just in time and turned and ran.”
  • In an attempt to kill the girls, the Shadow Witch causes an avalanche. “Hanna used her magic to lift the thick sheet of ice above them like a roof. . . the thundering snow swept over the top of them, battering at the sheet of ice and the sides of the boulder.” The girls are not injured.
  • While walking through the woods, the Shadow Witches cause the wind to blow and knock ice crystals onto the sisters. A branch “swept through the air and straight toward the little polar bear. . . Ida screamed, and without a second’s thought, she flung herself in front of the cub. The branch hit her full in the chest. . .” Everyone is able to safely get out of the woods.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The magical lights called the Everchanging Lights “kept everything in balance and made the island such a wonderful place to live.”
  • Freya’s sister, Veronika, is trying to steal Freya’s magic. Freya tells her daughters, “She is using spells to try to take my magic. I can feel it!”
  • The Shadow Witch “closed her eyes and began to chant strange words. Images appeared on the surface of the ice.” The Shadow Witch is using her magic to spy on the three sisters.
  • Each of the three sisters has a unique magical talent. “Hanna had discovered she could move things using her mind, Ida had the power to bring objects to life when she drew them, and Magda could transform into any animal or bird that she saw.”
  • Using magic, Freya can communicate with the three girls. “The girls held their breath as an image of their mother’s face gradually formed in the snowflakes.” Freya tells the girls where they can find the missing orb.
  • Oskar is the girls’ pet polar bear. “All Nordovian polar bears had the ability to change size.”
  • Magda uses her magic to change into a bird. The magic felt like “a tingle.” Later, she changes into an arctic fox.
  • Ida uses her magic to create a rope. “The air shimmered, and suddenly a rope appeared just as she had drawn it.”
  • To get the orb, the girls need to open the crystal rose without touching it. Hanna “drew on her magic and felt it welling up inside her. Focusing on the rose, Hanna willed the petals to open. Magic surged through her, strong and powerful and the petals began to peel back. . .”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Thornwood

For years, Briony has lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Rosalin, and the curse that has haunted her from birth. According to the curse, on the day of her sixteenth birthday, Briony would prick her finger on a spindle and cause everyone in the castle to fall into a 100-year sleep. When the day the curse is set to fall over the kingdom finally arrives, nothing—not even Briony—can stop its evil magic.

You know the story.

But here’s something you don’t know. When Briony finally wakes up, it’s up to her to find out what’s really going on, and to save her family and friends from the murderous Thornwood. But who is going to listen to a little sister?

Thornwood looks at the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of the little sister. While the villain in the story is clearly the fairy queen who cast the spell, she doesn’t make an appearance until the very end. Instead, the suspense is created by the Thornwood branches that attack the castle’s inhabitants. When Briony and a group of acquaintances try to defeat the Thornwood branches, a fairy tells Briony, “The Thornwood will disappear once Rosalin dies in it.” At one point, Rosalin considers sacrificing herself to the Thornwood to save the people she loves. However, Briony is the true hero of the story because she perseveres until she finds a way to defeat the fairy queen without sacrificing her sister.

Adding Sleeping Beauty’s sister to the story is an interesting premise, however, the sister relationship is spoiled by Rosalin, who has few redeeming qualities. For the most part, Rosalin is too caught up in her looks and the prince to notice her sister. When Rosalin talks, her statements are mean and dismissive. For example, when Briony tries to help Rosalin, Rosalin tells her, “Why don’t you just leave. Nobody needs you here. Go annoy someone else.” Plus, Rosalin constantly makes fun of Briony’s hair describing it “like mud that’s been stirred with bathwater” or “a mass of frizz that’s been hit by a lightning bolt.” Anyone who has been a victim of bullying will be saddened by Rosalin’s behavior, especially because Briony already feels ignored and unimportant. Despite this, Briony never gives up on trying to help her sister.

In the end, the Royal family is not portrayed in a positive light. The parents are clueless fools, Rosalin is self-centered, and the family doesn’t consider the feelings of others. However, by the end, Briony wonders, “Had we even thought about anyone but ourselves? We had acted like this was our story. Like the other people in it—everyone in this castle, and outside it, too—were minor details we didn’t have to pay attention to.” The conclusion has a typical happy ending that attempts to show that your station in life doesn’t determine your worth. However, if you’re looking for a fabulous fairy tale, you should leave Thornwood on the shelf and instead read The Prince Problem by Vivian Vande Velde or the Royal Academy Rebels Series by Jen Calonita.

Sexual Content

  • In order to wake Rosalin, a prince kisses her. Briony sees the kiss and thinks, “I wish I had gotten there thirty seconds later. . . It wasn’t a gross kiss. Just a peck on the lips—polite and distant—and then the prince stepped back from the bed.”
  • The story implies that Rosalin and the prince kiss. Briony “looked pointedly away and caught Edwin doing the same. We both snickered.”
  • When the prince thinks Rosalin is about to die, he professes his love and then kisses her. Briony thinks, “This time, the kissing was gross.”
  • After the castle is free from the Thornwood, Rosalin “claims that she only ‘likes’ the electrician who had been modernizing the castle, and she’s ‘not interested in getting serious with anyone right now.’ I mean, she’s already kissed him more times than she kissed Varian, back when she thought he was her destined husband.”

Violence

  • While Briony searches the castle, the Thornwood grabs her. “Something snapped around my wrist, driving sharp spikes into my skin. . .The branch that had grabbed me yanked back so hard that I was dragged towards the window. . .the branch pulled, slowly and steadily. Thorns dug into my wrist with sharp stabs of fiery pain.” Someone saves her. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When Briony, Edwin, Rosalin, and the prince try to leave the castle, the Thornwood attacks. “The ground around Edwin exploded, clumps of dirt flying as barbed vines broke through the earth. One wrapped itself around his ankle. . . another snapped around his wrist. . . Edwin had been pulled to the ground, and a thorny branch was crawling up his arm over his shoulder.” The Thornwood attacks everyone except for the prince. Rosalin’s fairy godmother saves them, but Edwin is seriously injured. The scene is described over six pages.
  • When the fairy godmother gets Edwin out of the Thornwood, Edwin is a “bruised and bloody creature. . . He was unconscious, his clothes in shreds and stuck to his body with dried blood.”
  • The Thornwood gets into the castle. The branches attack Rosalin. Briony “lunged for them and grabbed the largest, pulling at it with my bare hands. It could have encircled me easily, but it was too busy trying to get to Rosalin.” When they get Rosalin free, Briony, Edwin, and the prince run into a tower.
  • When they get to the tower, “A thorn snagged my [Briony’s] hair and pulled several strands out, with a burst of pain that brought new tears to my eyes. I wrenched myself free, into the golden light.” The tower scene is described over five pages.
  • Briony traps the fairy queen. But then, “She reached out and grabbed me by the throat. . . she lifted me from the floor, and I couldn’t’ breathe. I tried to scream, but couldn’t do that, either. Panic filled me as I struggled to draw air into my lungs and no air came.” Rosalin and Edwin save Briony.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After sleeping for over 100 years, Rosalin discovers that the castle is surrounded by thorns. “There are some princes that come there [the village] to try to fight their way through the Thornwood and wake the beautiful princess sleeping in the castle. They need a place to sleep. . . and lots of ale.”
  • Before the castle fell asleep, Edwin was apprenticed to the blacksmith. The blacksmith “was not a good man. He got angry a lot, and drunk, and he let the other apprentices—”
  • When Briony goes to the apothecary, she finds it to be a mess. “The pots on the shelves were knocked over sideways or smashed on the floor. . .” Someone suggested that people were looking for wine and didn’t find it.
  • When the prince finds an empty jug that smells like alcohol, he says, “Someone in this castle is very drunk right now.” Later, the royal wizard shows up to the ball drunk. He tells the king and queen, “I have been working great and terrible magics to figure out a way to release us from our plight. I had to partake of wine so I could access the depths of. . . um. . .”
  • The prince offers Rosalin a bite of her birthday cake. When she refuses the cake, he eats it. Then, “his eyes went wide. He fell over sideways, straight as a log. The fork with its remnant of cake flew out of his hand, skittering across the dance floor. . .” The cake had been poisoned.

Language

  • Briony uses “oh curses” as an exclamation once.
  • A boy calls Edwin “sniveler.”
  • Rosalin calls Briony an idiot.
  • Rosalin often makes rude comments about Briony’s hair. For example, Rosalin says, “And fix your hair. You look like a Pegasus caught in a windstorm.”

Supernatural

  • The story takes place in Sleeping Beauty’s magical kingdom, where magic exists.
  • The castle is surrounded by Thornwood, a living plant that tries to trap people. When the branches are cut, “they hissed as if they had been burned.”
  • Briony sees a strange bird that “cocked its head and looked straight at me, and then it wasn’t a bird at all. It was a woman—a creature that looked like a woman—with shimmery dragonfly wings whirring behind her back.”
  • After the curse is broken, the fairy godmother throws a birthday ball. “The doors of the kitchen swung open and a cart rolled out. Rosalin’s birthday cake teetered on top.”
  • The prince says a fairy gave him a magical sword that can help him fight off the Thornwood.
  • Briony trips and puts her hand out to catch herself. “My palm landed right on a thorn. I screamed and pulled back. I expected the branches to wrap around my wrist. Instead, they all arced toward the thorn that had pierced my skin. A drop of blood dripped from the thorn’s tip, and one of the branches, swooped low to catch it.”
  • The tower room has a magic spinning wheel. Briony uses the spinning wheel to create magical, gold thread. The Thornwood “seemed to flinch back from the gold thread.”
  • Rosalin believes that the only way to save the castle from the Thornwood is to sacrifice herself, which she considers. Rosalin says, “It needs my blood. Once it has it, you’ll be free. You’ll all be safe. . . Name your first child after me.” Rosalin “thrust both hands into the thorns. Their hiss rose around us, sharp and sibilant and triumphant.”
  • Briony discovers that her blood repels the Thornwood. She “jabbed [her] palm into the spindle of the spinning wheel. It hurt. It really hurt. For one blinding second, the pain was all there was. Then I blinked out tears and saw that the thorns had drawn back even farther, leaving a larger space around the spinning wheel than they had before. My blood had given the spinning wheel power.”
  • Briony realizes that “No one, no prince, no savior, had come to us through the Thornwood. [The prince] had come from it.” Then Briony uses the magical gold thread. She “brought the thread down over his head and around his neck. I crisscrossed the ends and pulled them, making a noose that tightened against his throat.”
  • When Briony puts the golden thread around the prince, he changes. “His body shimmered; his face lengthened; his eyes grew larger. Two wings, blacker than black, snapped shut over his shoulder blades. He didn’t look like a woman, but he wasn’t a man either. He was a creature. A being. A center of power.” The prince was the fairy queen in disguise.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Who Was Princess Diana?

A shy twenty-year-old girl stepped out of a horse-drawn coach and into the world spotlight, capturing the imagination of millions as a real-life fairytale princess. Although the storybook marriage didn’t have a happy ending, Diana learned to use her fame to champion charitable causes near to her heart. She became the “People’s Princess” by humanizing the image of the royal family and showing care and concern for all people, including the homeless, the sick, and others in need.

Even though Princess Diana was born into a wealthy, noble family, her father taught her to “treat everybody with kindness and never act more important than another person.” Because of her caring and compassionate nature, Princess Diana was loved by millions. Princess Diana used her fame to help people in need, including AIDS patients, the Red Cross and Mother Teresa. Again, though her fairy tale didn’t have a happily-ever-after, Princess Diana’s life is still an inspiration for millions around the world.

While the majority of Who Was Princess Diana? focuses on Diana’s life beginning with her early childhood, the book is full of other interesting facts. Scattered throughout the book are one-to-two-page non-fiction articles that talk more about the royal residences, the order of succession, Mother Teresa, as well as other topics that affected Princess Diana’s life. The end of the book includes a timeline of Princess Diana’s life and a timeline of the world.

Who Was Princess Diana? shows that life as a princess isn’t like it is in a fairy tale. The book has an easy-to-read format with large font. Large black-and-white illustrations appear on almost every page. Many of the illustrations show the royal family; however, the drawings are a bit off-putting because of the strange expressions on people’s faces. In addition, some of the drawings are of people in Diana’s life, but the picture doesn’t look much like them.

While Princess Diana was an admirable person, she is not portrayed as a perfect person. Throughout her life, her caring nature was a bright light. She was never afraid to show her love for people including the sick and the poor. Today, Princess Diana’s legacy is carried on by her two sons, Prince William, and Prince Harry. Who is Princess Diana? is perfect for readers who are researching the princess. However, learning about the princess will also encourage everyone to be a kinder person. Diana said, “I knew my job was to go out and meet people and love them.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • After Princess Diana visited Angola, she joined the Red Cross to help get rid of land mines. After a civil war, “Close to fifty thousand people—including children—had lost an arm or leg in land-mine accidents.”
  • The paparazzi followed Princess Diana everywhere. Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi, were in a vehicle. Their driver tried to outrun the paparazzi. “The driver was going too fast and lost control. The car crashed into a concrete pillar inside a Paris tunnel.” All three passengers died.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Majesty

Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it leaves you breathless. One young woman is born with it. After centuries of kings on the throne, Queen Beatrice is the most powerful woman America has ever known. So why does it feel like she’s lost so much?

Her sister is born with less power. Heir, spare, whatever. The American people will always think of Princes Samantha as the part princess. So she might as well play the role, right?

Some are pulled into the Washington’s world. Nina Gonzales longs for a normal life—whatever that is. But disentangling herself from Prince Jefferson’s world isn’t as easy as she’d hoped.

And a few will claw their way in. There is only one crown that can be captured in this generation, and Daphne Deighton is determined to have it. She will take down anything—or anyone—that stands in her way.

American Royals continues the drama of the three Washington children. The story is told from multiple points of view including Beatrice, Samantha, Nina, and Daphne. Each person’s point of view is uniquely different and allows the reader to understand each person’s thoughts, which are often different than their actions. This leads to well-developed characters who are flawed and relatable.

The second and last installment of the American Royals Series focuses more on each character’s love life and less on politics. The story is full of steamy kissing scenes, heated arguments, and the confusion that comes with young love. One character’s story is like Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew with a modern twist. Unlike many romance novels, Majesty doesn’t end with a happy-ever-after for everyone. Instead, the book ends by showing the complicated and messy nature of love. The reader is left with this message: “real love comes from facing life together, with all its messes and surprises and joy.”

If you’ve ever wished a prince would steal your heart, American Royals: Majesty should be on your must-read list. The American Royals Series has well-developed characters, a unique premise, and several plot twists. However, if you’re looking for a book with less alcohol and sexual tension, The Selection Series by Kiera Cass would be a tamer choice.

Sexual Content

  • Even though she is engaged to Teddy, Beatrice kisses Connor. After an argument, Connor “grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her. There was nothing gentle or tender in the kiss. Connor’s body was crushed up against hers, his hands grasping hard over her back as if he was terrified she might pull away.”
  • Ethan declares his love to Daphne. Then Ethan “leaned down to kiss her. . . She felt like she’d been on a torturous low simmer for months, and now she was finally alive again.”
  • Nina and Ethan kiss several times. For example, after eating pizza, Nina and Ethan kiss. “Ethan’s touch grew firmer, his hand moving to trace the line of her jaw, her lower lip. The air between them crackled with electricity. . . Nina leaned deeper into the kiss, her grip tightening over his shoulder.” The scene is described over a page.
  • Samantha and Marshall begin a “fake” relationship. While at a party, they end up in the pool. “One of Marshall’s hands had looped beneath her legs, the other braced behind her back. . . Then he brushed his lips lightly over hers. . . Sam kissed him back urgently, feverishly. She had shifted, her legs wrapped around his torso, her bare thighs circling the wet scratchy denim of his jeans.” The scene is described over a page. After this, they kiss several more times.
  • After spending an evening together, Beatrice “pressed her lips to [Teddy’s]. Perhaps out of surprise, his mouth opened beneath hers, letting her tongue brush up against his. . . She tugged impatiently at his shirt, trying to pull it over his head, but Teddy tore himself away.” Teddy stops Beatrice because she has had too much to drink.
  • After Teddy encourages Beatrice, she kisses him. “She turned and pulled his face to hers, dragging her hands through his blond curls, kissing him with everything that was aching and unsettled in her.”
  • Samantha tells Marshall how she feels about him. Then, “Marshall stood up in the moving carriage, bracing his hands on the wall behind Sam, and closed his mouth over hers. Sam arched her back and leaned up into him.”
  • After Teddy and Beatrice proclaim their love for each other, they kiss. “Beatrice tore her mouth from his only to tug his blazer impatiently from his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Teddy fumbled a little with her dress, struggling with its tiny hooks. . . His breath caught when he saw her in nothing but her ivory lace underwear.” The scene is described over 1 ½ pages. The two have sex, but it isn’t described.
  • On Beatrice’s wedding day, her first love, Connor, shows up. Beatrice is startled and, “Connor, seeing her parted lips, leaned in to kiss her. She didn’t resist. . . The sheer Connorness of him overwhelmed her senses. . . Then reality crashed back in and she pulled away, her breathing unsteady.”

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • There are many, many events where alcohol is served to both adults and minors. For example, on a spring break trip, Nina and her friends drank “cheap beer.”
  • During boat races, alcohol is available. “Long queues had formed behind the scattered bars that sold mint juleps.”
  • At a museum event, alcohol is served. A worker “was pushing a catering cart, and Sam heard the unmistakable clink of jostling wine bottles.” Sam grabs “a bottle of sauvignon blanc from the cart.” Sam and a man she just met take turns drinking straight from the bottle. “The wine had a crisp tartness that settled on the back of her tongue, almost like candy.”
  • In the past, Daphne “had slipped a couple of ground-up sleeping pills into Himari’s drink.” Her friend, Himari, climbed “a staircase in her dazed, disoriented state—only to fall right back down.” The fall put Himari into a coma.
  • At a party hosted by Jefferson, minors drink alcohol including vodka. Jefferson’s old rowing team shows up, already drunk, shouting that they needed him for a “round of shots.”
  • Teddy takes Beatrice home to meet his parents. Beatrice explains why she usually doesn’t drink, “I can’t afford to get drunk and publicly make a fool of myself.” However, she drinks “the grapefruit thing” and gets slightly drunk.
  • The Russian ambassador told Beatrice, “That while beer and wine muffled and muted your emotions, vodka revealed them.”
  • During a historical reenactment, Marshall talks about his ancestor, the king of Orange joining America. Marshall says politicians from the past, “bickered over terms for weeks. Then, when they finally signed a treaty, they got roaring drunk.”
  • During a celebration, Marshall teaches Samantha about a game. If you lose, as a penalty “you get a choice. You can either sweep the steps of your local post office or buy a round of shots at your local bar.”
  • Jefferson and his best friend “got drunk for the first time together, that night we accidentally had all that port and ended up puking our guts out.”

Language

  • Profanity is seldom used. Each word of the following words is used several times: ass, badass, damn, and hell.
  • Beatrice’s secret boyfriend yells, “When you’re making choices about our future, I want a damn vote!”
  • Nina tells her lab partner, “Not to brag, but I kick ass at assignments.”
  • God and Oh my god are used as examinations a couple of times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • one

Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess

This book describes Kate Middleton’s childhood, family, education, interest and career in fashion, and marriage to Prince William. Readers will learn about Middleton’s college years at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she met the prince, the couple’s royal wedding, and their charity work. From attending events to traveling with guards, readers will discover what it’s like to represent a royal family as a princess! Features include a table of contents, maps, “Did You Know” fun facts, a “Snapshot” page with vital information, a glossary with phonetic spellings, and an index.

Anyone interested in real life princesses will enjoy learning more about Kate Middleton. Each page has large photographs that focus on Kate. Every two-page spread has 3 to 5 sentences in large print. While the book’s format will appeal to reluctant readers, some readers may want a book that gives a more in-depth look at Kate’s life especially since the biography ends with Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.

The biography will give readers insight into Kate’s early life. While the book does not have enough information to complete a thorough research paper, younger readers who are interested in learning about a modern princess will enjoy Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

A New Beginning

Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend—the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come for him to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected: Princess Madelyn, the daughter of Princess Cassandra. Will will have to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion—a task that at times seems almost impossible.

A New Beginning brings the exciting tale of Horace and Cassandra’s daughter, Maddie. Fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be eager to follow Will Treaty on an epic journey that pits a group of evil slavers against Will and Maddie. The fast-paced story has plenty of adventure and action as well as humorous moments. The first part of the story focuses on Maddie’s Ranger apprenticeship where she not only learns the skills of a Ranger, but also learns to have compassion for the common people. The second part of the story focuses on Will and Maddie as they investigate the kidnapping of children. Both parts expertly merge for a suspenseful conclusion that contains several surprises.

As a princess, Maddie was disrespectful, disobedient, and defiant; however, readers will connect with the spoiled princess who wants adventure and a life of purpose. Being a Ranger’s apprentice allows Maddie to learn important survival skills, such as how to defeat an enemy, why loyalty is important, and the necessity of following orders. Plus, Maddie gets an inside look at the struggles of peasants. The satisfying conclusion shows Maddie’s growth from a spoiled brat to a brave Ranger’s apprentice who helped save children from being sold into slavery.

A New Beginning is not for the faint of heart; an evil villain, bloody battles, and many deaths are all essential parts of the plot. The fighting and deaths are described in detail. Plus, the story focuses on the Stealer, who “is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children.”

Although A New Beginning is the beginning of Maddie’s story, those who are new to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will not understand the significance of some of the people and events that take place. For maximum enjoyment, readers should first read all 12 books in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series. While this may seem like a huge undertaking, each book has a unique new conflict that will capture readers’ attention.

Through the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, Flanagan creates a world where good and evil often clash. By the end of the series, readers will feel like the characters are their friends. While the series often delves into serious topics, the books also reinforce the importance of loyalty, sacrifice, and friendship. Readers who decide to jump into the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be swept away into a world where knights exist, princesses help save the day, and the Ranger’s apprentices always help overcome evil.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A Ranger questions a wagoner about “the fire that you and Ruhl set in that inn. . . There was a woman killed in that fire, remember? A Courier.” The Ranger explains that the Courier died while saving a child who was trapped in the fire.
  • Later, the fire is described. The Courier, Alyss, was on the second story of the inn when there was “a terrible rumbling crash, the entire section of the roof above and around where she was standing gave way and collapsed in a mass of flames and sparks. . . Alyss never had a chance.”
  • As the Ranger questions the wagoner, the Ranger’s “right hand snatched the dagger from his belt and he swung it in a backhanded strike. . . The wagoner grunted in shock and staggered back. His feet tangled in the bench he’d been sitting on and he stumbled, crashing over to hit the edge of the table, then falling with a thud to the ground.” When the wagoner doesn’t move, someone turns him over. “The wagoner’s eyes were wide-open. The shock of what had happened was frozen on his face. His own dagger was buried deep in his chest.”
  • Someone tries to kill Maddie, who reacts by using her sling to throw a projectile at the attacker. “The shot, with the extra impetus of the sling to propel it, hit its target first. She heard an ugly, meaty smack and a muted cry of pain from her attacker as it struck home.” Maddie kills the attacker.
  • The villain kidnaps a girl. In the process, her brother “pretended to go back to sleep. I told him if he raised the alarm or told anyone what he’d seen tonight, I’d come back for him and cut his eyes out of him.”
  • In an epic, multi-chapter conclusion, Will and Maddie try to save a group of children who were kidnapped. Both Will and Maddie are forced to kill several evil men. When Will sees a guard, he “nooked an arrow, drew back and released, sending a shaft flashing down the cliff face. It struck the crossbowman full in the chest.” The man dies.
  • One of the villains threatens to kill a child. In order to save the boy, Maddie whipped the sling over and forward. The lead ball caught the moonlight, glinting once as it flashed toward its target.” The man is injured, and “he drew in a breath to scream and the action caused him more agony as the jagged pieces of his fractured rib grated together.” The man falls off a cliff and dies.
  • Will draws the enemy away from Maddie. When Will has a chance, he shoots an arrow at “the line of advancing men. . . Enrico cried out in surprise and pain and threw out both arms, staggering back under the impact of the speeding shaft. Then he crashed over on his back, his sightless eyes staring up at the sky.” Will kills three men in a similar manner.
  • The enemy captures Will. One of the men “jerked his head forward and butted Will in the face.” Will is tied up, and the head henchman, Ruhl, plans to burn Will at the stake. “Ruhl made his way up to the beach to where Will stood, trapped against the stake, unable to move. . .”
  • Maddie crawls behind Will, who is tied at the stake. She cuts Will’s binds. Someone notices her, and Maddie’s “first shot smashed into one of his men. . . Maddie’s second shot smashed home. It hit him on the right shoulder, shattering the large bones there, smashing the joint beyond any possibility of repair and sending him reeling.”
  • During the fighting, Maddie is hit. “The evil, barbed head was buried deep in her thigh and she felt the leg give way under her, unable to bear her weight. Blood was coursing down her leg and she fell, causing more agony. . .”
  • During the fighting, Ruhl falls into the fire. “Then the firewood ignited with an explosive WHOOF! Ruhl screamed as the flames shot up, enveloping him instantly, catching his clothes and hair. . . He tried to scream again, but the burning air and flames scorched his throat and lungs, and he made a terrible, inhuman grunting noise.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Several times throughout the book, the adults drink ale. A man who owns a tavern “had drunk far too much ale. As a result, he had staggered off to his bed without bothering to clear away the dirty platters. . .”
  • Maddie is invited to a party where there is a cask of wine. Maddie “took a deep swig of wine. It tasted heavy and somewhat sour.” After drinking too much wine, Maddie looks at her friend who “seemed to be swimming in and out of focus.” The next morning, Maddie has a hangover and decides, “I’m never going to drink again.”
  • While trying to solve a mystery, Will goes into a tavern and orders small ale. “Small ale was ale and water mixed in equal proportions.”

Language

  • Gorlog’s breath is used as an exclamation once. Gorlog is a “very useful Skandian demigod.”
  • Oh god and my god are both used as an exclamation once. When Will talks about his dead wife, he say, “Oh god, how I miss her.”

Supernatural

  • While talking to some village children, Maddie hears about barrow wights. “They’re supposed to be spirits that hang around ancient graves.” Will thinks back into the past. Will had “sensed something then as he rode past some ancient borrows, as the ancient grave mounds were called. It seemed to be some malign presence.”
  • One of the villains scares the children with a story about the Stealer. “The Stealer is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children. . . The thing is, the Storyman said if we were ever to see him, we were to say nothing. . . And he said we must never, never tell a grown-up about the Stealer in the Night.”

Spiritual Content

  • Queen Cassandra’s father says, “Thank god for Horace. She couldn’t have chosen a better husband.”

Princess Lessons

Sasha, a flying horse, has just discovered that she is princess of the flying horses! But before she can attend to any royal duties, she has to take a difficult Princess Test. To make matters worse, plant pixies are trying to capture Sasha so they can use her magic wings. If the pixies steal too many feathers, a flying horse becomes too weak to fly. Can Sasha pass the Princess Test and stop the pixies from stealing the flying horses’ feathers?”

Verdant Valley is a magical place where horses live. However, danger is at Verdant Valley’s door. In order to help, Sasha studies to pass her Princess Test. However, the skills that Sasha learns aren’t skills of character. In order to pass the Princess Test, Sasha “pranced and flew. She ate and drank in a princess-y way. She won the staring contest. Flowers stayed in her mane when she ran. She remembered the ancient battles and the song of the giant snail.” While young readers will enjoy the tale, the story portrays Sasha as a typical princess who needs to be “fancy.”

Princess Lessons shows the importance of not keeping a secret if the secret puts someone else in danger. When Sasha prepares to leave Crystal Cover, Sasha asks her friend, Kimai, to keep a secret. However, Kimai tells the secret to the safety patrol. At first, Sasha is upset that Kimai didn’t keep the secret. Kimai says, “I am your friend. I broke my promise only because it’s not safe for you to leave.” Later Sasha forgives Kimai and realizes her friend did the right thing.

Princess Lessons has a high-interest topic—horses and pixies. The story’s nine short chapters, large font, and black-and-white illustrations make Princess Lessons accessible to young readers. Plus, the book’s large illustrations will help readers understand the plot.

Young readers will relate to Sasha as she tries, and fails, to learn new skills. While Sasha does not always do what’s right, she clearly cares about others. The conclusion ends abruptly, without solving the problem of the plant pixies, so readers will be eager to see what happens in the next book, The Plant Pixies. If you’re looking for a book series that young readers will love, the Tales of Sasha series will keep readers engaged with 12+ books to choose from.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Sasha tries to leave Crystal Cover, two green horses “threw two long, silver ribbons at her. One ribbon wrapped around one of her hind legs. The other ribbon wrapped around her nose. . . Together, the green horses gently pulled Sasha down to the Crystal Cove beach.” The two horses were trying to protect Sasha.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A spell was put over Verdant Valley to keep the plant pixies away, but “the spell must have been broken when you went through the big trees.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

American Royals #1

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washington’s have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life begins to feel stifling. For Princess Samantha, nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

While American Royals follows the lives of the three Washington children, the story is told from multiple characters including Beatrice, Samantha, Nina, and Daphne. Beatrice struggles with the pressure of becoming the future queen. Because Samantha is the “spare,” she feels that no one cares about her, so she has turned into a wild party girl. Nina is Samantha’s best friend, and for a brief time, she dates the prince, Jefferson. While Nina deeply cares about Samantha and Jefferson, she struggles with the media storm that follows her. And then there is Daphne; she wants a crown and is willing to do anything to get it. The four distinct points of view allow the reader to understand the nuances of each character. This allows for rich world-building full of suspense, passion, and surprises.

Even though the story focuses on the monarchy, politics is not a major storyline. However, Beatrice and her father do talk about politics; for example, the King believes that “opposition is critical to government, like oxygen to fire.” These discussions will give readers some political questions to ponder. Plus, these discussions allow the reader to understand how Beatrice is forced to always put the crown before her personal desires.

The dynamics between the Washington family and their friends create an interesting story full of unique characters that draw the reader in. The narration includes some of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, which gives the story depth. While there is a clear villain, some of the suspense comes from not knowing everyone’s motivation. However, in a break from believability, most of the characters do not act like typical young adults. Despite this, many readers will relate to the characters’ fight against social and parental expectations. In the end, American Royals uses American’s fascination with royalty to spin a terrific tale that sheds light on the difficulties of being a prince or princess. However, if you’re looking for a book full of intrigue without the steamy kissing scenes, the Embassy Row Series by Ally Carter is sure to entertain you.

Sexual Content

  • Jefferson’s girlfriend finds him “in bed with another girl.”
  • At the Queen’s Ball, Samantha meets Teddy. She takes him into a coat closet and tells him, “I outrank you, and as your princess, I command that you kiss me.” After a brief conversation, Samantha “grabbed a fistful of his shirt and yanked him forward. Teddy’s mouth was warm on hers. He kissed her back eagerly, almost hungrily.”
  • Daphne, Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend, curtsied. “They both knew there was no reason to greet him like this, except to give him a good view down the front of her dress.”
  • At a graduation party, Jefferson and Nina go to his bedroom and make out. “Nina fell back onto the bed, pulling Jeff down next to her. . .his hand slipped under the strap of her dress, and it forced Nina brutally to her senses.” Nina stops Jefferson before they have sex.
  • Jefferson and Nina kiss four times. After the Queen’s ball, Jefferson kisses Nina. “She felt a sizzle of shock as the kiss ricocheted through her body. This is what she’d been chasing when she’d kissed those boys at school . . . This is how a kiss should feel—electric and pulsing and smokey all at once. . .”
  • Even though Beatrice is dating Teddy, she kisses her guard, Connor, and “the utter rightness of that kiss struck her, deep in her core.” They kiss five times.
  • During a skiing trip, Jefferson kisses Nina. “Nina went still, her eyes fluttering shut. Jeff’s lips were freezing, but his tongue was hot. The twin sensations and the fire sent shivers of longing through her body.” The kiss is described over two paragraphs.
  • Beatrice and Connor get stuck in a snow storm and have to share a room. While there, Connor kisses Beatrice. “He kissed her slowly, with a hushed sense of wonder that bordered on awe.”
  • Teddy is dating Samantha’s sister, Beatrice. Despite this, he kisses Samantha. “The kiss was gentle and soft, nothing like their fevered kisses in the cloakroom that night. . . Sam lifted her hands to splay them over the planes of Teddy’s chest, then draped them over his shoulders.” They kiss several more times after this incident.
  • Daphne wants to get back together with Jefferson. When they meet at a party, she tells him, “This time we don’t have to wait. For anything.” Before, Daphne told Jefferson that she wanted to wait to have sex, but now she’s hoping sex will help her get Jefferson back.
  • Teddy kisses Beatrice “with a quiet reverence. . . Beatrice had sensed that this was coming, and tried not to think about it too closely—not think anything at all. But it took every ounce of her willpower not to recoil from the feel of Teddy’s lips on hers. Just this morning she had been tangled in bed with Connor, their kisses so electrified that they sizzled all way down each of her nerve endings, while this kiss felt as empty as a scrap of blank paper.”
  • Even though Daphne was dating Jefferson, she has sex with Jefferson’s best friend, Ethan. “Suddenly they were tumbling onto the bed together, a tangle of hands and lips and heat. She yanked her dress impatiently over her head. . .She felt fluid, electrified, gloriously irresponsible.” The description stops here.
  • At Beatrice and Teddy’s engagement party, Beatrice kisses Connor. “His mouth on hers was searing hot. . . It felt like she’d been living in an oxygen-starved world and now could finally breathe—as if raw fire raced through her veins, and if she and Connor weren’t careful, they might burn down the world with it.”
  • At Beatrice’s engagement party, Daphne gets a ride with Ethan. Ethan kisses her and “the kiss snapped down her body like a drug, coursing wildly along her nerve endings. Daphne pulled him closer . . . Somehow, she moved to sit atop him, straddling his lap. They both fumbled in the dark, shoving aside the frothy mountain of her skirts.” The make-out scene is described over three paragraphs; the sex is not described.

Violence

  • During a knighting ceremony, Jefferson’s friend remembers “when Jefferson had drunkenly decided to knight people using one of the antique swords on the wall. He’d ended up nicking their friend Rohan’s ear. Rohan laughed about the whole thing, but you could still see the scar.”
  • Jefferson and Samantha have a graduation party at the palace. The guests “all had a lot to drink; the party’s signature cocktail was some fruity mixed thing.” During the party, a girl “tumbled down the palace’s back staircase.” The girl is in a coma after her fall.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • There are many, many events where alcohol is served to both adults and minors. For example, during the Queen’s Ball alcohol is served, including champagne. Even though Samantha is a minor the bartender gives her “a pair of frosted beer bottles.”
  • Samantha thinks about the difference between Jefferson and herself. “If pictures surfaced of Jeff visibly drunk and stumbling out of a bar, he was blowing off some much-needed steam. Samantha was a wild party girl.”
  • While at a museum, Beatrice looks at Picasso’s paintings. She said, “They always make me feel a little drunk.” Her guard says, “Well, really it’s to make you feel like you’re high on acid. But drunk is close enough.”
  • During the World Series, one of Jefferson’s friends became drunk and “bartered away his shoes for a hot dog.”
  • After a play, Samantha was served “two glasses of wine and a whiskey sour” even though she is only eighteen.
  • At a New Year’s party, Samantha and Daphne get drunk. “For the first time in her life, Daphne was drunk in public. After she and Samantha took that first round of shots, Daphne had insisted on switching to champagne. . . She’d never known how utterly liberating it was, to drink until the edges of reality felt liquid and blurred.”
  • Nina goes to a frat party. “Despite the chilly weather, a few of the houses had kegs and music on their front lawns. . .” When Nina goes inside, she sees, “clusters of students gathered around a plastic table, lining up their cups of beer for a drinking game.”
  • The King’s sister only goes to royal engagements when she’s drunk.
  • At a party, Daphne drinks tequila. She kept hoping that if she drank enough, she might temporarily forget that her hard-won, high-profile relationship was unraveling at the seams. So far it hadn’t worked.
  • Sam tells Teddy about some of her ancestors. King Hardecanute “died of drunkenness at a wedding feast . . . He literally drank himself to death!”
  • At his sister’s engagement party, Jefferson “sat on a gleaming barstool, his body slumped forward, his elbow propped on the bar. An expensive bottle of scotch sat before him . . . He was drinking straight from the bottle.”
  • After Beatrice’s engagement party, her father and she have bourbon. Beatrice takes a glass because it was “liquid courage.”
  • At a graduation party, Daphne puts “ground up sleeping pills” into a girl’s wine. The girl was “visibly drunker, her words louder and more pointed, and then a few minutes later she retreated to a sitting room.”

Language

  • Hell is used occasionally. Damn is used once.
  • God and oh god are used as exclamations occasionally.
  • If Samantha talked back to the paparazzi, she “was a ruthless bitch.”
  • After a picture of Jefferson and Nina kissing appears, people begin attacking Nina. One person posts, “get rid of that skanky commoner.” She is also called a “fame whore” and “a social climber.”
  • Daphne calls Nina a “gold-digging fame whore.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The American Constitution says that “the king is charged by God to administer this Nation’s government.”
  • When Beatrice and Connor get stuck in the snow, she prays “that she could stay here forever, outside time itself.”
  • The King tells Beatrice, “I wish I had someone I could turn to for guidance. But all I can do is pray.”
  • While the king is in the hospital, his mother has “her rosary clicking in her hands as she mouthed her litany of prayers.”
  • When the king dies, “All the prayers that Beatrice had memorized as a child came rushing back, their words filling her throat. She kept reciting them, because it gave her something to occupy her brain, a weapon to wield against her overwhelming guilt. Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

The Silver Secret

Can the Snow Sisters stop the evil Shadow Witch from turning their world dark forever?

Ida, Magda, and Hanna’s mother, Freya, is the keeper of the magical Everchanging Lights that protect their island. But when a selfish witch curses their mother and tries to steal the power for herself, only the Snow Sisters can find the lights and save their kingdom. Find out if the girls can discover their own powers and recover the pink light before it’s too late!

The Silver Secret employs interesting topics—princesses with a magical power and a magical polar bear—to draw readers into the story. Even though the beginning of the book explains a lot of background information, the story is still fast-paced and interesting. The girls’ mother appears in a magic snow globe and says, “Veronika wants the magic of the Everchanging Lights for herself. . .but I managed to protect it before she could trap me. . . My daughters, you must find these orbs.”

Even though the sisters are used to having servants help them “with everything,” the girls are determined to do the quests on their own, so they sneak out of the castle in the middle of night. Every time the girls are in danger, one of the sisters uses her magic to solve the problem. As they look for the orb, the sisters’ comments often sound snobbish. For example, the girls know their governess would not like them trekking through the snow. Hanna says, “She would demand that Gregor take us to find the snow hawk in Nordovia’s finest sleigh, with hot chocolate breaks every half an hour!”

The sisters find one orb and safely return to the castle. The conclusion sets up the second installment of the series, The Crystal Rose. The Silver Secret has charming black and white drawings that focus on the three sisters. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses and magic. However, the Diary of an Ice Princess Series by Christina Soontornvat and the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman would be a better choice if you’re looking for an entertaining story with life lessons.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Veronika, Freya’s sister, uses her magic to ambush Freya and her husband. “Magnus ran to help [Freya], but Veronika stabbed her staff into the ground and shouted a vicious-sounding spell. Instantly, gnarled tree limbs burst out of the snow and weaved themselves around him.”
  • Veronika and a wolf find the girls. “As the wind grew to a harsh cry, a rumble worked its way through Oskar’s throat, and he lunged at the wolf. But he was no match for the beast, and a gigantic paw knocked him flying. Oskar yelped and slumped into a snow drift, dazed.”
  • Gregor comes to the girls’ aid. “Gregor leaped forward and grabbed the wolf’s tail. With a huge effort he began to pull the wolf back by its fur—but with one mighty swing of its body the wolf flung Gregor into a tree.”
  • The girls try to escape from the wolf by climbing a tree “but the wolf’s sharp teeth caught her sister’s boot and began to drag her down.” Magda turns into a snow hawk and escapes.
  • To get the wolf away from her sisters, Magda turns into a squirrel. She “sprang onto the wolf’s back and bit down hard on its ear!” Magda uses her magic to shake snow onto the wolf. “The beast disappeared beneath the snow. . .”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The Snow Sisters’ mother is the Keeper of the Lights. “The magical Everchanging Lights sustained and protected the island.” Their mother also has the ability to “momentarily freeze time.”
  • Veronika uses a curse to “drain Freya’s magic from her.”
  • Freya appears in a snow globe and talks to the girls. The sisters “just listened to their mother’s familiar voice and watched the light pouring from the globe.”
  • Ida can make her drawings come to life. Ida uses her magic to make snowshoes.
  • Oskar, a magical polar bear, is able to “magically grow in size.”
  • Hanna’s magic allows her to move things with her mind.
  • When the girls use their magic, they feel a tingle.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Beneath the Citadel

Prophecies have ruled the city of Eldra for centuries. With each new prophecy, the ruling high council tightens their control on the city, crushing any who would rebel against them. For Cassa Valera, the council and their leader, the chancellor, are her number one targets for revenge. After her parents led a rebellion and were killed, Cassa has been looking for a chance to free the city from the council’s clutches. Along with her friends Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper, she hatches a plan to infiltrate the mighty citadel where the council resides.

But even if Cassa and her friends are brave enough to fight against the citadel, their plans won’t go smoothly. The council will hound their every step, as they use their diviners to foresee the future. Old friends will betray them. Their loved ones will be in danger. And most of all, their relationships will be strained.

The fight against the council will be a hard one. Yet, with the unexpected help of a stranger, they may just be able to pull it off. That stranger, however, may turn out to be more monstrous than the council. Will Cassa and her friends be able to save the city they love?

Beneath the Citadel is a fun read that follows the main characters Cassa, Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper. The story jumps from each character’s point of view. Each character is unique, with their own realistic troubles and fears. For instance, Alys deals with anxiety that affects her everyday life.  Alys’ younger brother, Evander, is afraid he won’t be able to protect his family. Newt was abused by his father, and worries he doesn’t matter to anyone. And Cassa is always afraid that nothing she does will ever matter. But while these characters have flaws and fears, they work to overcome them, making them likable. Readers will root for them to triumph in the end.

While the characters will pull readers in, the plot is strong as well. The plot is simple to understand, but complex enough to make readers think about each character’s actions and decisions. At the start, the group’s goal is simply to take down the citadel, but by the end, each member is fighting against a monster more destructive than the council: a man named Solan. Solan is the main villain who has numerous powers including being able to see the future and steal people’s memories. Readers will enjoy the thrill of watching the four young heroes fight to stop Solan in his tracks before he destroys Eldra.

Overall, Beneath the Citadel has a nice pacing and is a fun read from start to finish. It focuses on the theme of teens dealing with the mistakes of their parents and predecessors, as well as the smaller themes of handling anxiety and discovering a new love. As a standalone novel, everything is neatly wrapped up by the end of the story. Destiny Soria’s novel is a great choice for any reader of YA fantasy fiction.

Sexual Content

  • Before the start of the story, Evander and Cassa were romantically involved. “They had broken off their romance six months ago. It had been a mutual decision and very amicable, but you don’t just forget almost a year of your life being so closely intertwined with another person’”
  • Newt recalls when he first met Evander and Cassa. They were still an item and Newt watched as Cassa turned to Evander and “leaned down and kissed him.”
  • Evander is bisexual and falls head over heels for Newt. “Evander had figured out he was bisexual around the same time he’d figured out what sex was. But Newt held a strange fascination for him, ever since their first chance meeting years ago.”
  • Newt realizes he has feelings for Evander too. “There was a thrill of new energy inside him, a tingling in his fingertips, and the dawning certainty that one day he was going to fall in love with Evander Sera.” When they’re outside of the city walls, Newt and Evander kiss each other. “It wasn’t Newt’s first kiss, but it was the first one that mattered. His thoughts were deliciously hazy. He was kissing Evander Sera. Evander Sera was kissing him.”

Violence

  • Evander recalls being beaten during an interrogation. “He’d already earned a few bruises during the interrogation. It wasn’t supposed to be a painful process, but the sentient who was reading his memories hadn’t appreciated his sense of humor and had called in a burly guard to impart the wisdom of keeping his mouth shut.”
  • Newt can contort his body in order to get in and out of bad situations. “Newt breathed in deeply through his mouth and, with a wince, popped his left thumb out of its socket. It didn’t hurt, but he’d never grown used to the uncanny sensation.” That contortion takes a toll on his body. “He’d never told them about the alarming frequency of sprains when he didn’t use the braces, that while he could bend his body in fantastic fashion, it came at a price.”
  • Alys watches Newt knock out a guard. “She didn’t see Newt until he was only a few feet away from the guard and was swinging something—a lantern—in a high arc toward the back of the man’s head. There was a terrific thump, followed by another thump as the man fell to the floor, his gun clattering beside him.”
  • Alys often thinks she’s dead weight. At one point she thinks, “Maybe it would be better if she just died before they caught up. Maybe it would be better if she died now. Maybe it would be better. Maybe it would.”
  • When Mira, the Blacksmith’s daughter, performs the blood-bonding ritual on Solan, she has to cut open his arm. “Mira leaned in beside Cassa and slit a long, deep line into the inside of Solan’s left arm, a mirror to Evander’s own scar.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The group originally sneaks into the citadel in barrels. “The kitchen workers had unknowingly smuggled all four of them into the basement storerooms in barrels of beer that were only half full.”
  • Cassa talks to Alys about possibly becoming a legend in the streets of Eldra. Cassa then tells Alys, “We’ll get a whole tavern drunk one night and spread the rumor.”

Language

  • Damn, ass and shit are used frequently. For example, when her friends break her out of a prison cell, Cassa says, “Just open the damn door.” Another time, Evander talks to Cassa about her terrible escape plan. “I doubt your half-assed escape plan would work a second time.”
  • Bitch and bastard are both used a few times. For example, the Dream Merchant, a man who buys and sells dreams, tells off Cassa. “This is none of your business, you little bitch.”
  • The Dream Merchant calls Cassa’s parents, “scum parents.”

Supernatural

  • Eldra, and the country it’s a part of, Teruvia, are ruled by ancient prophecies. These prophecies dictate life for the vast majority of people in the city of Eldra. Pretty much everything in Eldra revolves around prophecies, and many characters use these powers to see the future. The Chancellor says, “The teachings laid down by Teruvia’s forefathers tell us that the elder seers saw every thread of the tapestry that is our present and future.”
  • There are official gatherings in Eldra to talk about prophecies. For example, “Most of the citadel’s inhabitants would be at the monthly council session, where any new prophecies were discussed and the fulfillment of old prophecies was speculated on.”
  • Solan uses runes to foresee Cassa and her friends stumbling across him in the dungeons beneath the citadel. Solan has “known for a while that you [Cassa] would be coming. I saw it in the runes.”
  • Bloodbonding is a process by which an individual is magically connected to some metal or other substance. The Chancellor thinks about bloodbonding after meeting with Evander. “With a bloodbond’s complete control over a particular metal, any number of everyday items could become weapons.”
  • Evander is bloodbonded to silver. “He could feel the silver like an extension of himself, moving farther and farther away, the connection weakening more and more.”
  • People who can manipulate other’s memories, or take them, are called Rooks. Vesper is a rook. She thinks about how “Rooks had to be patient and gentle, so very gentle. Memories were fragile. They could be torn or teased out too thin.”
  • When Cassa visits the Dream Merchant, a man who barters in dreams, she’s afraid he’ll take too many of her memories. “She had no doubt that Gaz would try to take far more than the memories she’d offered. And she didn’t know if she’d be able to stop him—or pull away once he’d started.”
  • Those that can magically read a person’s immediate past in their face are called sentients. Newt thinks, “He’d heard that skilled sentients could read so quickly and thoroughly that they might as well be reading someone’s mind instead of just their past.”

Spiritual Content

  • In Eldra, people worship the Slain God. Vesper, in a church, listened as, “The choir began to sing a gentle, haunting requiem in Teruvia’s dead language. The tale of the god who had once cradled Teruvia, protecting it from those who, in envy and greed, would do her harm.” Soon after the choir sings, “The tale of their dying god, who used the last of his strength to scatter his omniscience across Teruvia, a gift for the chosen devout few.”
  • It is believed the Slain God gave a few people his power, allowing them to foresee the future.
  • Before people pass on, they are typically given death rites. Death rites often involve taking one’s memories. Cassa thinks about the practice. “She did know that the devouring of memories was meant to be a cleansing of sorts, a final penitence in honor of the Slain God.”
  • Alys thinks about the typical rituals. “Normally, even if someone died without death rites, a priest would be on hand to talk about how every person’s greatest honor is to join the Slain God in blissful oblivion. Candles would be lit and doused at intervals. Sometimes someone would sing a verse from the Slain God’s requiem.”
  • Solan very much hates the religion of the Slain God. He tells off the chancellor, saying, “What a strange way of describing the duty that your pathetic religion demands of me.”

by Jonathan Planman

War Storm

In the splintered Kingdom of Norta, freedom for Reds and newbloods is closer than ever before. Torn between the two princes and the feuding noble Silver Houses, Norta is ripe for the taking. All the Scarlet Guard has to do is clean up the mess Maven Calore made, and create the type of nation that will never discriminate against Reds and newbloods. The first step is to rip the crown from Maven’s head.

In order to change the world, Mare Barrow must ally with Cal, the boy who chose the crown over her. Cal’s betrayal nearly broke Mare, but now she must fight alongside him if she wants any chance at winning freedom. If she doesn’t, Maven will surely overrun them all, and capture her for himself. Maven’s obsession with Mare runs deep, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her again.

For the Reds to rise, they must first go through a war storm. Scurrying from nation to nation and striking deep into the heart of Norta is only the beginning, and there are endless battles in sight. Are Mare and the Scarlet Guard willing to sacrifice everything to achieve the impossible? Or will Maven crush them and their dreams?

War Storm is the final entry in Aveyard’s Red Queen Series, and the story will not disappoint readers. As Mare and the Scarlet Guard are about to secure a future for themselves, they fight intense battles. The action-packed series features different combinations of Silver and newblood abilities, which makes every battle feel unique and fresh. Readers will love how each battle plays out differently than the last.

Of course, all those battles support the theme of war, as nearly the entire continent gets dragged into the civil war between Cal and his brother, Maven. Maven brokers alliances with the powerful nation of the Lakelands, as well as the smaller nation of Piedmont. While Cal allies with the free country of Montfort, the only nation known that allows equality for Reds, newbloods, and Silvers.

The characters in War Storm are strong and interesting. Mare has grown into a girl that’s strong enough to handle whatever is thrown at her. Another fascinating character is Evangeline Samos, Mare’s former enemy, who begins the long journey to overcome her Silver-born prejudices. These strong characters will keep readers on the edge of their seats. While not every main character gets the most satisfying ending to their arc, the ending ties up most of the loose ends and will leave readers happy. Warm Storm is a satisfying conclusion to Aveyard’s Red Queen Series.

Sexual Content

  • Evangeline is in love with her brother’s wife, Elane. Evangeline thinks, “It breaks my heart to know she isn’t really mine.”
  • Evangeline’s brother, tells her that their mother wants grandchildren. “Prodding after grandchildren. She escorts Elane to my rooms every night. I think she might even stand guard outside the door.”
  • Davidson, the leader of Montfort, shares a kiss with his husband, Carmadon. “They embrace quickly, touching foreheads and kissing, before Carmadon backs away.”

Violence

  • During an attack on a military transport, Mare sees Evangeline lift a vehicle. Mare watches as Evangeline “hisses as she raises the heavy transport off the road, revealing twisted limbs and a few flattened skulls seeping brain like popped grapes leaking juice.”
  • During a battle, Kilorn, Mare’s best friend, is thrown off a building. Mare thinks, “The crack and thud of Kilorn hitting the railing below makes me sick.” Minutes later, when Mare gets to Kilorn, he “jolts and hacks, painting the steps with his own blood.”
  • Mare gets revenge on the Silvers that threw Kilorn, killing them with lightning, “I have to look away from the charred remains. Only their buttons and guns remain intact, smoking with heat.”
  • When Iris meets with Cal’s grandmother, Iris pictures, “her grip changing, shifting, and then my skull exploding open, spewing brain and bone all over the transport interior.”
  • Just before being ambushed, Mare sees pine needles floating in the air. One pine needle, “sprouts before my eyes, a sapling growing in midair. It spears a soldier before any of us can react.
  • During an ambush, Tyton kills a lot of raiders with his ability to control lightning. Tyton, “blinks once, twice. Killing anyone within his reach, leveling them with a fury of electricity in their skills.”
  • Iris thinks about the man who killed her father. The man “cut his throat. Attacked him from behind like some honorees dog.
  • Mare kills a man who attacked her. She strikes him with her lightning and “then his face explodes; shards of bone and torn flesh arc forward. His body follows the momentum, slumping over me, and the thunderous touch of electricity returns as quickly as he falls.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • During a dinner party, wine is served. Mare watches as her friend, Farley, “barely nods in thanks when Carmadon fills her glass with rich, almost black wine. She drinks deep.”

Language

  • Damn is used frequently. Mare thinks about Cal’s marriage to Evangeline, “Like us, Volo needs him. Needs his name, needs his crown, and needs his damn hand in that damn marriage to his damn daughter.”
  • Maven called Elane “Evangeline’s whore.”

Supernatural

  • Silvers and Newbloods have unique powers.
  • Mare is an electricon, a type of newblood that can manipulate lightning. Mare thinks, “I hardly know the depths of my own abilities. It’s the same for all newbloods I’ve met and helped train.”
  • Ella, another electricon, “used her own storm to strike the central, furious blue lightning cracking stone.”
  • Mare thinks about her ability to manipulate lightning, “I know what it is to pour lightning into a person, to sense their nerves sparking off and dying. It feels like a small death of your own, an ending you can never forget.”
  • Prince Bracken is a mimic. Iris thinks about his abilities, “If he were to touch me, he would be able to use my nymph abilities, albeit only for a time, and to a lesser extent. The same goes for any Silver.”
  • Jidansais is a telky. Iris thinks about Jidansa, “She used her talky ability to amuse Ti and me as children, juggling our shoes or toys with her mind.”
  • Evangeline is a magnetron, who can manipulate metal. After lifting a military transport, “Evangeline lowers the transport again. With a twitch of her fingers, she rips off one of the doors, allowing those inside to tumble out.”
  • Shadows can manipulate light. Mare sees, “The work of shadows, no doubt, manipulators of light. It sends harsh light and harsher darkness dancing across us all.”
  • Nymphs can manipulate water. Evangeline sees the signs of a nymph attack, “‘Nymph strike!’ I manage to scream as another towering wave crashes—backward.”
  • Evangeline recounts her first time teleporting, “It feels like being squeezed down to my marrow, all my organs twisting, my balance thrown off, my perception turned on its head.”
  • Windweavers can manipulate wind and air. Mare sees, “On the opposite side of the chamber, Radis gestures to Davidson, flicking out one hand. As he does so, a sudden breeze rustles through the Gallery.”

Spiritual Content

  • In the Lakelands, the people worship gods that don’t have faces.
  • Iris thinks it’s a blasphemy to speak for the gods.
  • Iris tries to get her betrothed, Maven, to accept her gods. When he refuses, she thinks, “Nonbelievers are not my problem. I can’t open their eyes, and it isn’t my job to do so. Let him meet the gods in death and see how wrong he was before he enters a hell of his own making.”
  • In Archeon, the capital of Norta, Iris tries to maintain her beliefs. She has, “a small temple—a shrine, more than anything—filled with candles and worn emblems of the nameless gods.”
  • In the Lakelands, the nameless gods are everywhere. Iris sees, “Worn faces, bland in their features, both strange and familiar, look down from the ceiling and walls. Our gods have no names, no hierarchy. Their blessings are random, their words sparse, their punishments impossible to predict.”

by Jonathan Planman

King’s Cage

After completing her mission to secure an army of newbloods, Mare Barrow finds herself once again trapped in the royal palace of Norta. She’s become King Maven’s pet, forced to play a dangerous role at his side. Her forced words carry weight with the Reds, and create schisms in the Scarlet Guard and Norta as a whole.

Without Mare, the Guard has trouble accepting both the newbloods and Silvers into their ranks. Cameron Cole, a newblood herself, knows exactly what it’s like to be ostracized for her ability. After seeing Mare struggle to control her ability, Cameron fears becoming like her; yet, she’s not alone in the struggle. Farley, a new commander of the Scarlet Guard, continues to fight after losing her lover, Shade. Kilorn, Mare’s best friend, must decide whether to continue fighting or focus on protecting Mare’s family. Cal must figure out what side he will choose. Will he be able to continue to kill his Silver comrades, or will he betray the Scarlet Guard?

But just as loyalties are tested in the Scarlet Guard, so are they in Maven’s court. Evangeline Samos, now betrothed to Maven as the future queen of Norta, wants nothing more than to rule. When noble houses begin to betray Maven left and right, navigating the palace becomes more complicated. Will Evangeline get to rule Norta? Will Cameron and the Scarlet Guard prove too much for the Silvers to handle? Will Mare be able to change Maven for the better and abolish the monarchy?

As the third installment of the Red Queen Series, King’s Cage is an excellent continuation of the story because Mare is back in the thick of political intrigue. She’s right there to see the complicated and unique relationships between the Silvers, allowing the reader to see both sides of the power struggle.

The plot is a roller-coaster of twists and suspense, leading Mare, Cameron, and Evangeline through many life-changing and life-threatening moments. The three main heroines are fascinating to follow because each one is constantly on the edge of danger. For instance, Mare has gotten over her selfish and arrogant nature, but now struggles to stay at Maven’s side. Mare is forced to pretend that she betrayed the Scarlet Guard, yet she manages to stay sane enough to secretly gather intel. Cameron struggles with the fear of turning into a monster. And Evangeline must find a way to rule over Norta without becoming Maven’s bride.

The theme of betrayal is once again central to the plot, as characters and noble houses backstab each other left and right. The action scenes are the best yet with each heroine battling individually at first, but then all coming together in a big battle at the end. The buildup and suspense work well as Mare’s, Cameron’s, and Evangeline’s stories intertwine. Overall, King’s Cage is a great follow-up to a lackluster sequel. The story will conclude in the final book, War Storm, where readers will find out whether Mare will triumph over King Maven.

Sexual Content

  • During an argument, Maven kisses Mare. Mare thinks, “His kiss burns worse than his brand.”
  • Maven pledges his hand to the Lakeland princess, “From this day until my last day, I pledge myself to you, Iris of House Cygnet, princess of the Lakelands.”
  • One morning, Evangeline wakes up to her lover’s kisses. Elane “laughs against my neck, her touch a brush of lips and cold steel.”
  • Mare is torn up about her love for Maven. “There are still pieces of me, small pieces, still in love with a fiction. A ghost inside a living boy I cannot fathom.”
  • Mare is humiliated by her guards. “Kitten forces me into the scarlet gown, making me strip in front of them all.”

Violence

  • Mare’s former tutor says, “I watched babies die without seeing the sun.”
  • When visiting wounded Silver soldiers, Mare thinks, “Their kind aren’t meant to bleed. Not like this.” The soldiers fought in a battle against the Scarlet Guard.
  • In a military transport, Mare attacks Maven. Mare “jumps forward, lunging, hands stretched out to grab him by the collar. Without thinking, I shove, pushing, smashing him back into his seat.” Later, Mare thinks, “I fantasize about cutting his throat and staining Maven’s freshly painted walls with Silver blood.”
  • Mare is forced to attend a feast put on by Maven. It ends in an assassination attempt, which kills Maven’s foreign guest, Prince Alexandret. Mare sees, “Prince Alexandret, slumped dead in his seat of honor with a bullet hole between his eyes.” At the same time, Mare sees Maven wounded, “Silver blood bubbles from his neck, gushing through the fingers of the nearest Sentinel, who is trying to keep pressure on a bullet wound.”
  • During an attack on the capital, Cal kills Samson. “Fire races down Samson’s throat, charring his insides. His vocal cords shred. The only screaming I hear now is in my head.”
  • During a sparring match between Mare and Cal, Cal overwhelms her. Mare gets hit with Cal’s fire, and her “flesh ripples with fresh blisters, and I bite my lip to keep from screaming. Cal would stop the fight if he knew how much this hurt.”
  • In a final battle between Maven’s army and the Scarlet Guard, the first casualty is a Red soldier. Mare sees the soldier fall, and then “shouts as he goes over the edge, plunging thirty feet—before sailing skyward, born of a graviton’s concentration. He lands hard on the wall, colliding with a sickening crack.” In the thick of the fight, Farley, a Scarlet Guard commander, kills some Silvers. “Farley peppers them with gunfire, dropping a few Silvers where they stand. Their bodies slide off into darkness.” The battle is described over 20 pages.
  • A newblood committed suicide after being outed as a spy. Mare thinks, “I’ve seen suicide pills before. Even though I shut my eyes, I know what happens next.”
  • Three of the noble houses of Norta attack Maven. Mare watches as “Laris wind weavers toss Iral silks from one side of the room to the other with sharp gusts, wielding them like living arrows while the Irals fire pistols and throw knives with deadly precision.” A few of Maven’s guards are hurt in the fight.
  • When Cameron infiltrated a prison, she used her ability to kill Silvers. Her ability is to snuff out other abilities, as well as other lives. Cameron thinks, “The memory still makes me sick. I felt their hearts stop. I felt their deaths like they were happening to me.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Maven explains that his mother controlled his father. Maven says, “He was a drunk, a heartbroken imbecile, blind to so much, content to keep things as they were. Easy to control, easy to use.”
  • While at a party, Mare notices, “Music dances on the air, undercut with the sweet and sickening bite of alcohol as it permeates every inch of the magnificent throne room.”

Language

  • During a televised speech, Mare is forced to say the former King and Queen “rightfully knew that a Red with an ability would be considered a freak at best, an abomination at worst, and they hid my identity to keep me safe from prejudices of both Red and Silver.”
  • Bastard is used several times. For example, Cameron calls Cal a “Silver Bastard.”
  • When thinking of her twin brother, Cameron wonders, “Send him home? To another hellhole?”
  • Cameron thinks Mare is a “condescending twit.”
  • Ass is used several times. For example, Cameron calls Cal a “veritable pain in the ass.”
  • Someone calls Evangeline’s lover a “whore.”

Supernatural

  • Samson Merandus, one of Maven’s allies, describes his ability. “As a whisper, my ability allows me to bypass the usual lies and twists of speech that most prisoners rely on.”
  • During an infiltration mission into a Silver compound, Cameron takes the newblood, Harrick, along. She sees a pair of guards as Harrick uses his ability to make their “figures ripple slightly, like the surface of disturbed water.” Harrick can create illusions to manipulate people’s senses.
  • Cameron’s ability allows her to stop other’s abilities. When Cal confronts her, she notices his flames still “waver before my ability, fighting to breathe, fighting to burn. I could snuff them out if I wanted to.”
  • When he gets angry, Cal will let loose his fire. “The gleaming bracelet at Cal’s wrist flickers, birthing sparks that travel along his arm in a quick burst of red flame.”
  • Evangeline can manipulate metal. When Mare is about to be shot, Evangeline catches the bullet mid-air. “Her fist clenches and the bullet rockets backward to where it came from, chased on by splinters of cold steel as they explode from her dress.”
  • The leader of Montfort, a country far from Norta, can create blue walls out of thin air. He stops Cal and Mare’s sparring match with “another blue wall of something divides the spectators from our spar. With a wave of Davidson’s hand, it blinks out of existence.”
  • During the final battle, nymphs on Maven’s side flood a city. Mare watches as “the rain shimmers, dancing on the air, joining together into larger and larger droplets. And the puddles, the inches of water in the streets and alleys—they become rivers.” No one is injured.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jonathan Planman

Serious Moonlight

Birdie has been raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents. With no friends, Birdie spent her time reading mystery books. Birdie’s overactive imagination keeps her entertained. When her grandmother dies, Birdie’s world expands. She takes a job working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

Birdie hopes that her new job will give her the opportunity to be brave and solve a mystery. When her cute coworker, Daniel Aoki, has a mystery to solve, he wants Birdie’s help. The two come together to investigate a hotel guest, who they think is a famous reclusive writer. Together they embark on an adventure to uncover the writer’s identity. As the two try to solve the mystery, Birdie must also try to understand her growing feelings for Daniel.

With a wide variety of unique characters, Serious Moonlight delves into the complications that come with relationships. Both Daniel and Birdie are connected by their love of mystery as well as the fact that their fathers are not present in their lives. Birdie struggles with understanding her feelings for Daniel, especially since the first time they met they had sex. Like many teens, Birdie has questions about sex, relationships, and her own motives.

Told from Birdie’s point of view, readers can understand Birdie’s insecurities, worries, and confusion. Many teens will relate to Birdie because she is a likable character who is just trying to figure out what adulthood looks like. Birdie has a positive relationship with her grandfather and her aunt, who want to help her navigate life’s difficulties. By the end of the story, Birdie learns that “Missing people is hard. Letting new people inside is harder. But the reward for making the effort was greater than I could have imagined… It took me a long time to figure out that not everyone in my life was meant to stay. But using that armor didn’t shield me from future heartache. And even heartache felt is a million times better than running away.”

While Serious Moonlight has some light, humorous moments, it is not a Hallmark romance. The story hits on several difficult topics, including grief, sexual relationships, and having a child out of wedlock. The descriptive sexual content and the profane language may surprise many readers. The ending of the story has a few surprises, but Birdie’s conflicts are neatly wrapped up in a way that is not necessarily realistic.

In the end, Serious Moonlight is an entertaining, suspenseful story best suited for mature readers. Readers who are looking for an entertaining, but tamer teen romance should read Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo or What Light by Jay Asher.

Sexual Content

  • Birdie doesn’t know who her father is because her mother “got knocked up by an unknown boy when she was a rebellious seventeen-year-old.”
  • Birdie loses her virginity to a boy she just met. They have sex in the back of his car. Birdie wasn’t thinking “because once we got back there and clothes started getting unbuttoned and unzipped, it all happened so fast… So when it was over, I bolted.”
  • Birdie reads Seattle’s local alt-weekly city paper. When she reads the ads, “a few were just begging for kinky hookups.”
  • When Birdie tells her aunt about having sex, her aunt says, “Do you know how much weird sex I’ve had in my life… Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s just plain bad. It’s never the same.” Their conversation lasts for two pages.
  • Daniel tells Birdie about his father. “My dad didn’t want to have anything to do with me, so he basically gave my mom a big hunk of cash for an abortion, washed his hands, and said adios.”
  • Birdie thinks back to when she had sex. “I was transported back into his car, and my hands were in his hair, and he was kissing me into a wobbly, weak pulp.”
  • While driving a customer, Daniel “heard some Amazon bigwig order two male prostitutes on his phone.”
  • Birdie has a fling with one of her friend’s brothers. After basketball practice, “he kissed me by the fence. Then again, two days later, for much longer. Secret basketball make-out sessions became a regular thing for a few weeks.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie that it was a mistake to have sex because it was “pretty awful.”
  • While at a party, Birdie and Daniel are in character. They pretend to be teachers. When they talk about who their characters are, Daniel says, “We have ten [kids]… You couldn’t stay away from me. I tried to resist, but the smell of chalk dust and blackboards excited you, so we were constantly having sex in the classroom where we taught.”
  • While at the party, Birdie and Daniel are alone when Birdie kisses him. “Oh God, did he kiss me back. His mouth was on mine. Warm. Open. Eager. He kissed me like he meant it…” They were interrupted by other guests.
  • Birdie goes into a store and buys condoms. She’s surprised by the variety: “Fiery ice. Studded. Sensitive. Extra sensitive… Armor of the Gods.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie that he had sex with “someone I had a crush on.”
  • When Daniel tells Birdie that he loves her, they kiss. “We kissed like we were desperate, separated for years and had only minutes to spare until the world ended, rushing, breathless, all roaming hands-teeth-tongue…”
  • Birdie and Daniel kiss. Birdie “Kissed him back without thinking. His lips were soft and warm… Pleasure flooded my limbs. Then he was pulling away…” Daniel gives Birdie oral sex. At first, Birdie “nearly blacked out. First from embarrassment, then from pleasure.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • Daniel’s friend teases him about his good mood. His friend joked “about me having a look on my face as if I’d spent the weekend in Las Vegas with a bunch of male hookers and a bag of cocaine.”
  • While at work, Daniel and Birdie “may have taken advantage of our working situation and made use of an unbooked hotel room on our lunch break.”
  • Birdie’s aunt becomes pregnant after spending time with her ex-boyfriend. She says, “We’d been texting. One thing led to another, and we spent the weekend together in Scottsdale.”
  • Birdie’s mother died because of complications from a pregnancy. Birdie finds out that her mother “didn’t know who the father was, and she wasn’t planning on keeping it.”
  • Birdie and Daniel kiss, and “his mouth came down on mine. He kissed me quickly—small, desperate kisses all over my mouth, until I flung my arms around him and kiss him back.”

Violence

  • In the past, Daniel tried to kill himself. He “tried to overdose and was found in the school library by a janitor.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Birdie’s grandfather was in an accident, which “made him dependent upon mild opiates.”
  • When Birdie falls asleep on the ferry, an employee wakes her up. Birdie was “worried he thought I might be a drunkard or a heroin addict.”
  • During a dinner party, the adults have champagne. One of the guests gets drunk.
  • Birdie goes with her aunt to an art dealer’s house, where he has a “tray of vodka bottles.”
  • Birdie gets high when she accidentally eats gummy worms that are medicated with cannabis.
  • Daniel and Birdie go to an opera where “patrons cluster around a cocktail bar, drinking and chatting.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes asshole, crap, bastard, damn, fuck, hell, jackass, piss, and shit. For example after they have sex, Daniel tells Birdie that, “I feel like an asshole, and I wish I had a time machine so that I could go back and change everything.”
  • Jesus, Christ, God, Oh My God and oh God are used as an exclamation occasionally.
  • When Birdie was ten, her aunt taught her “a dozen words that contained the word ‘cock.’”
  • Birdie’s aunt tells her, “your mother was a goddess. Not a whore. Not a sinner. You know this.”
  • Birdie says “GD” instead of saying “Goddammit.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie a story about a man who was “a real prick.”
  • Daniel calls someone “a total dick.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Birdie’s “grandmother had been religious. However, Grandpa veered toward angel sighting and UFOs and people communicating with their long-lost Aunt Margie from Topeka.”
  • When her aunt embarrasses her, Birdie thinks, “If there were an all-powerful being that ruled the universe, it would have surely heard my desperate prayer to please, oh please, have mercy and strike me down. I needed a natural disaster pronto—earthquake, tornado, tsunami. Anything.”
  • Birdie is confused about Daniel and thinks, “I wished someone could tell me what to do about Daniel. I wished I believed in something, so I could ask for a sign. Fate. God. Myself. Elvis.”

Fairest of All

Once upon a time, a mirror slurped up Abby and her brother Johan. When Abby and Johan are magically transported into the fairy tale world, they don’t mean to change Snow White’s happily-ever-after. Because of them, Snow doesn’t eat the poisonous apple. Snow doesn’t meet the prince. Abby is determined to fix Snow’s story; she’s just not sure how to make the prince meet and fall in love with Snow.

Abby and Johan are complete opposites, which adds humor to the story. Abby needs a plan for everything and constantly tries to curb Johan’s adventurous spirit. The one thing that remains constant is their desire to help Snow. Unlike the original fairy tale, in this story Snow White’s personality is multifaceted. She proves that a girl doesn’t need a prince in order to live happily ever after. Instead of following the traditional plot, Fairest of All takes the reader down a winding path where danger is behind every corner.

Fairest of All is an imaginative retelling of Snow White’s fairy tale. Told from Abby’s point of view, the story’s start is slow, but once the siblings show up at the dwarves’ cottage, the action picks up. With short chapters, easy vocabulary, and an interesting narrator, Fairest of All will appeal to a wide range of readers. The story leaves several questions unanswered, which will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, If the Shoe Fits. More advanced readers should add The Secret Rescuers series by Paula Harrison to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Evil Evelyn tries to give Snow a poisoned apple. While arguing with Snow, Evelyn begins to sweat, and “makeup starts to smear down her face,” which allows Snow to recognize her stepmother. Johan retells the story, “Snow’s stepmom was trying to kill her with a poisoned apple, and that’s why she was wearing a disguise.”
  • Snow explains how she came to live with the dwarves. Snow’s stepmom “sends Xavier, her huntsmen, to kill me. He let me get away, but then I got lost in the forest… I came across the cottage… So I fell asleep on an empty bed, and the next thing I knew, there were seven little people staring at me.”
  • Johan tells Snow that the huntsman “told the queen that he had done it. And I think he gave her the lungs and liver of some animal, pretending it was you.” This comes up several times throughout the book.
  • Evil Evelyn tried to kill Snow using laces. The stepmother “tied them so tight Snow couldn’t breathe. We [the dwarves] came home and found Snow lying on the floor. We untied them just in time.”
  • When Prince Trevor was two, he threw a rock at a stranger.
  • Disguised as a child, Evil Evelyn offers to give Snow a cookie. Snow takes the cookie and her stepmother was “lifting the hammer and swinging it toward Snow’s head.” Abby sees the hammer and she “jumps towards Snow and push her out of the way… At the same time, the young girl’s hammer swings through the air and misses its target.” Evil Evelyn flees.
  • Snow, Johan, and Abby sneak into the castle. If they are caught, Snow says Evil Evelyn will kill them. Then Johan askes, “Do you think she’d eat our lungs and livers too?”
  • In order to try to “fix” Snow’s story, Snow pretends to be dead. As she lays in the coffin, she puts her head on a poisoned pillow. Snow screams. “Snow pops up, the tips of her hair burnt off like she stood too close to a fire.” To get the poison out of Snow’s hair, Abby dumps water on her head.
  • In order to get into the castle, Snow, Abby, and Johan swim the moat. Two crocodiles snap at the three friends. “Baby Crocodile blocks our path from behind and snaps her baby teeth… Mama Crocodile lunges again.” Johan throws stew sandwiches at the crocodile, who gobble them up. The three are able to escape.
  • Snow, Johan, and Abby try to leave the castle. They are on the drawbridge when soldiers appear. Evil Evelyn “aims a bowstring at Snow and pulls the trigger… In what seems like slow motion, he [Prince Trevor] jumps in front of Snow.” Trevor is injured, but Snow is saved.
  • The arrow hit Prince Trevor “square in the chest… Prince Trevor is still standing, but he’s shaking. After a few dramatic moments, his knees buckle, and he falls right over the bridge and into the water. Splash!”
  • Snow is able to drag Prince Trevor to shore. Trevor wakes up and says, “You kissed me. I was dead, and your kiss woke me up.” Snow explains that she didn’t kiss Trevor, but that “it was mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” The escape scene is described over 10 pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Jonah and Abby travel through a mirror and end up in Snow White’s fairy tale. When Jonah knocks on the mirror three times, the mirror sucks Jonah and Abby into it.
  • Time in the real world travels slower than in Snow White’s world. Every hour in the real world equals one day in Snow’s world.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Wishing Pearl

Princess Clarabel loves being a Rescue Princess. She and her friends are committed to saving animals in trouble wherever they may be!

When Clarabel finds an injured dolphin during Ampali Island’s Royal Regatta, she knows just who to call for help—her fellow Rescue Princesses! Her friends are brave, talented, and super smart. They’re so amazing in fact, she’s worried that she’ll fall behind, but Clarabel is about to discover that she has an incredible gift.

In the first book of the series, the princesses worked together to solve a mystery. However, in The Wishing Pearl, the princesses spend some of their time lurking around, trying to spy on a prince who is up to no good. At one point, they sneak into his room to look for clues. The princesses also try to avoid Queen Trudy because she wants the princesses to help prepare for an event. Instead, the princesses stay true to their desire to help injured animals by helping an injured dolphin.

Even though the vocabulary isn’t difficult, the story uses some complex sentence structures that are appropriate for strong readers. Cute black-and-white pictures appear every 2-7 pages. Many of the pictures are full-page and show the princesses in action. On the inside cover, the princesses are shown in full color and include characters of different ethnicities. However, in the black-and-white illustrations, the princesses look very similar to each other.

Readers will enjoy the interaction between the princesses and relate to Clarabel, who worries that she isn’t as good as the other princesses. Throughout the story, the princesses help each other and encourage each other. Even though the princesses find a lost treasure, they never consider keeping the treasure for themselves. Instead, they give it to the queen to use for her kingdom. The Wishing Pearl has positive princesses, action, and teaches about the importance of taking care of animals.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Each of the four princesses has a ring. “Even though they looked like ordinary rings, these magical jewels enable the princesses to call one another for help. Jaminta had invented them. . . By shaping jewels carefully, she could give them special powers.”
  • Jaminta has made several magical jewels including “emeralds that light up, diamonds that detect metal, and the rings that we use to call each other.”
  • Clarabel uses a pearl to heal a dolphin. “With her whole heart she said, ‘I wish he could be healthy again, I wish he could be healthy again. . .’ The pearl’s rainbow shine grew brighter. A fine white mist floated from the pearl to the dolphin. Under the haze, the dolphin seemed to fill with light.” The dolphin’s injury is completely healed.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Gotta Warn the Unicorns

Princess Pulverizer is so close to completing the Quest of Kindness that will allow her to go to Knight School. Before she can do her next good deed, she needs to help Fortune—a unicorn she recently rescued—find his family.

When a cowardly king orders his knight to capture all the unicorns they can, it’s up to the princess and her pals to warn the unicorns before it’s too late. But first they have to find them. Can Princess Pulverizer, her friend Lucas, and Dribble the dragon save the unicorns?

With her same feisty attitude, Princess Pulverizer faces King Harvey the Lion-Hearted. The cowardly king is convinced someone is trying to poison him and the only solution is to find a unicorn horn. When his knights present the king with a false unicorn horn, Princess Pulverizer shows off her unicorn knowledge and explains why the horn is not truly from a unicorn. She didn’t mean to endanger the unicorns, but her prideful nature has made King Harvey send his knights out on a unicorn hunt.

Princess Pulverizer is determined to fix her mistake and save the unicorns. Readers will giggle as Princess Pulverizer and her friends trick the king’s knights. King Harvey’s ridiculous behavior also adds humor. However, some of the story’s humor comes from the gassy king who likes to eat beans. The story’s comedy doesn’t interfere with the important message of not showing off.

Gotta Warn the Unicorns has a spunky, selfish princess who is trying to learn to be more like a knight. In the end, she praises her friend Lucas and asks King Harvey to give Lucas the magic lion charm. The story’s conclusion will leave readers curious about where Lucas’s newfound courage will lead them. Readers will be eager to grab the next book in the series, Yo-Ho, Yo . . . NO!

Gotta Warn the Unicorns is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and add humor to the story. Gotta Warn the Unicorns will engage readers and encourage them to be kind to others.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mirror that shows the future.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic ring that allows her to enter a room in complete silence.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic arrow. “If ever the holder of the arrow finds themselves lost, it will always point them toward home.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mace that has “the power to heal the wounds of anyone on the side of all that is good and right.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a truth-telling sword. “If someone is lying, it will wiggle. But if he’s telling the truth, it will lie still.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

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