Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shorter Musings: MG Fantasy

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. When these start to pile up, I put them together in one post.

Here are some reviews of MG Fantasy novels I've read recently. 

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne
This is a well written and fun story. I am not the best reader for it. I am now convinced I like MG steampunk better in theory than in reality. This book has some really great elements of steampunk, including mechanics dragons. Set in an alternate London, it tells the story of one boy from our world who finds himself in this world of mechanics and Fae, at the mercy of the changeable and ruthless Lady and her most loyal henchman. There are a lot of characters, and there was so much moving around it was difficult to get to know them well. I do think the sinister action and fascinating world building will draw readers into it. I know I have some students who would be very interested in this book.

Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin
Originally DNFed. Tried again and finished. 

I get why this is getting so much buzz. It is exactly the sort of book adults like for kids to read. I was swept away by the excellent prose and the nod to Anderson's tale, but have some pretty major issues with how the end wrapped up. The book is sad, sad, sad, and then in a rush of 20 pages there is a happily ever after that left me feeling flat. That much awful wrapped up that perfectly and fast left me feeling cheated. There was no real closure.

Secrets of the Terra Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine and Vinson Compestine
This is an action-adventure tale that is both historical fiction and fantasy. Taking place during the Cultural Revolution in China, it tells the story of the unearthing of the Terra-Cotta soldiers protecting the tomb of Emperor Qin. Co-author Ying Chang Compestine grew up in China during this time and brings her real life experiences to life in the tale of Ming. I really appreciated this part of the story. The fantasy element comes in when the first soldier found, Shi, comes to life and tells young Ming stories of the Qin's rule, the raids of the Mongols, and the building of the Great Wall. All of this is also fascinating. There is an interesting comparison here between QIn's rule and the rule of Mao. Through Shi the authors were also able to include all the folklore and superstition involving the tomb of Qin. While Shi coming to life and telling his story doesn't bother me, I do have issues with the liberties taken in the unearthing of the tomb itself. The story elevates the fictional character of Ming as a hero who gets the credit. This is a great book to educate about a time period few Americans know anything about and does it in a fun and active way. The language is a little stilted and awkward in places with some info-dumps, but is still an engaging read. This would work well paired with The Great Wall Of Lucy Wu (which I prefer).

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
dam Rex has a great sense of humor and he is able to wrap up a lot of wonderful social commentary into it. This book is a prime example of how well he does that. It is funny, heartwarming, and full of adventure. I loved the interactions between all the groups of people and the main characters, Gartuity and J. Lo, are fantastic. I did feel it was a little too long, but that is a typical complaint of mine with Rex's novels and one my students never seem to share.


  1. I have Flights and Chimes on my Summer reading list. I didn't think I would enjoy steam punk qualities in a book until I read The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski. Thanks for the reviews

    1. I have The Cabinet of Wonders checked out from library now. Plan to start it tomorrow.

    2. I look forward to seeing what you think, I really loved the spider :)