Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fantasy Book Reviews - The Ones Kids Will Shiver Over

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye  Illustrated by Keith Thompson

     This is a wonderfully scary, creepy, dark fantasy that kids will love. A brother and sister have carried their pranks just a little too far this time and no governess will remain to look after this motherless pair. The father is at his wits' end and decides to try one last thing to get them to behave – the trick that worked for him when he was a wayward child.
“Get in the car!” he yells at his terrible twosome, as the rain pours down outside and the dark descends for a scene that you know is going to end up badly. When they drive up to the top of the mesa that has been foreshadowed at the very beginning of the book, Tobias and Charlotte Eggers are uncertain what to expect. They have never seen their father in such a state.
     As he orders them out of the car and into the pounding rain, leaving them alone, they can’t believe he will truly do this to them and he really doesn’t intend to, but fate has a funny way of interfering and as the children look around, realizing that he is not coming back, they head toward the only light they see – that of Witherwood Reform School. Making the mistake that they are expected, they are welcomed in and Tobias and Charlotte soon learn that things are very wrong at this “school” with dangerous mutant animals guarding the gates at night, older children disappearing and mind-control stopping their plans of escape.
Children will delight and shiver with fright as they quickly turn the pages of this book, wondering why the father hasn’t come for them, where is he and what the outcome will be. Will the children get out . . . before it’s too late?

The Thickety: A Path Begins
The Thickety: The Whispering Trees
By J. A. White   Illustrated by Andrea Offerman

     I adored these two books and can’t wait for the next installment. I believe this is going to be a four-book set.
     Book One starts out quickly when our main character, Kara Westfall, is dragged out of bed to see her mother hanged as a witch. The island she lives on will abide no witchcraft and fights daily to keep the “thickety”, the dense growth of forest, cut back from their village. Kara’s father falls into a depression and we next meet her as a 12 year old taking care of, not only her father, but also younger brother, who is in poor health. Practically ostracized from the village, she gradually learns that she, too, has magical powers, but keeps them secret. Believing she can use her grimoire reasonably and for good she soon learns that it has taken control of her. The story rolls towards a terrible show down when we learn that Kara is not the only one in town with magic. Who will come out on top, what will it take from each of them and who will be collateral damage?
     If you think Book One is entrancing, engaging and wickedly spellbinding, then wait until you open the pages of Book Two: The Whispering Trees! Once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. The action starts and never stops! Kara and her brother Taff are forced to escape into the forest. We got a taste of Sordyr, the evil forest demon, in the first book, but we are really going to know his wrath in book two. Can Kara and Taff survive the untold dangers in the Thickety as well as this evil demon? And what about Mary Kettle, the infamous witch all the village children heard terrible tales of
 . . . and the things she had done?


The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)
By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

     I picked this book up because I liked the scary looking cover and it didn’t fail my anticipation. Many say this book reminded them a bit of the Harry Potter books, but since I didn’t read them, I can’t compare the two - (no, don’t gasp, I didn’t read them because I didn’t need to – kids were doing that on their own, no book pushing needed!). The evil looking ghostly figure on the front pulled me in and didn’t disappoint. This is high fantasy and will definitely entrance those readers who love magic, contests, a training school and treachery.
     We meet our main character, Callum Hunt, at a typical high school, doing typical things. But we soon learn he isn’t typical. He doesn’t have a typical father and he actually has been told to fail at magic. Yes fail. He is dragged away to perform at an entrance exam for the Magisterium and his father warns him to do his worst – do everything wrong, do anything he can to fail, he should NOT get admitted. But try as he might, not even knowing he is gifted with magical powers, he finds that he can do things he never knew he could do . . . and certain people take notice. With his father grabbing him, trying to keep him from going, he is dragged from his father’s grasp and taken to the Magisterium. There he learns that not only is he quite good but also quite out of control. He must master this even if he doesn’t want to  . . .
     Not only does he learn to control his magic, he learns about his past, a past he didn’t realize he had, a past he didn’t know his father had, and a future he might not want to have.
     One caveat I do offer to our young readers is I found the prologue a bit wordy and difficult to understand. When I handed out this book to my 4th and 5th graders, I told them to read it but to then realize that the rest of the book didn’t “read like these pages” and when they finished reading the book, they should go back and read these first pages again and it would make a lot more sense. I think it might be off-putting to readers that aren’t as astute because it is more difficult to read then the rest of the book.
     With that being said, the rest of the book is fast-paced, exciting, and with a twist at the end that no one, I mean no one, will see coming and makes you very excited and longing for Book Two: The Copper Gauntlet, which comes out September 1st and which I have had on pre-order ever since!
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