Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review of The Broken Raven (Shadow Skye #2) by Joseph Elliott

The Broken Raven (Shadow Skye #2) by Joseph Elliott
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Walker Books US   
Number of pages:  336  
Published:  January 21st, 2021
Source:  Raquel Stecher via Candelwick Press     

Opening Lines:  "My face is on fire, but I'm not gunna scream.  I don't think I could even if I tried."

The Broken Raven takes place about a month after the events in the first book and introduces a new character, Sigrid a twelve-year-old Dreamhain girl.  I would recommend starting with The Good Hawk before reading this book to understand the various clans and main characters struggles and achievements in the previous book.  

After having rescued Clann-a- Tuath and 
escaping Norveg, Agatha and Jaime return to the Isle of Skye, only to find that a rival clan,  The Raasay have taken over their homeland.  Luckily they're able to find refuge with neighboring Clann-na- Bruthaich.  At first the two clans are able to work together, but slowly their relationship becomes strained causing tension between the two sides.  Jaime's clan is in the process of trying to convince Clann-na-Bruthaich to help them to force The Raasay into leaving their enclave, but the clans are divided over whether or not to combine their forces to push them out.  However, once the sgàilean or shadow creatures used in their battle in Norveg are inadvertently released, the two clans are forced to join together to fend them off.   Jaime is then chosen to track down Budhbh, a man in Scotia who helped to contain the sgàilean in the past and Agatha sneaks away from camp to warn Lilea's parents, members of the Raasay, and show them how to defend themselves from the encroaching  sgàilean.  Meanwhile Sigrid is forced into servitude to Konge Grimr's as his eyes and is headed with him to Ingland.  Grimr's hopes the king Edmund of Ingland will aid him in taking over the Isle of Skye and all of Scotia, and to finally get his revenge against Agatha.

The Broken Raven is told in the alternating narratives of Agatha, Jaime and newcomer Sigrid.  Each of their storylines take them in different directions with new obstacles for each them to face.  Jaime is reunited with the Bo Riders and encounters a new creature (Imitator's)  while trying to locate Budhbh.  Agatha is assisted by Aileen, Jaime's friend, in making their way to The Raasay, but are held prisoner when The Raasay refuse to believe they're in danger.  Sigrid is under constant watch by Konge Grimr's men, who despise and want to off her any chance they get. When Lady Beatrice offers her the opportunity to escape in exchange for warning the Isle of Skye about the king of Ingland and Konge's plans, she doesn't hesitate.  However, escape for her will lead to one challenge after another, as Konge Grimr's has sent his most trusted man to hunt her down and bring her back to him at any cost.  I quite enjoyed the inclusion of Sigrid into the story, it changed things in an exceptional way.  Sigrid is determined, and her enhanced memory adds humor and certainly danger.  While the story ended on a cliffhanger, I am even more excited to read The Burning Swift next.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the talented artists who created the covers of Good Hawk and The Broken Raven, the illustrations were designed by twins  Anna and Elena Balbusso, I just love how they so beautifully capture the essence of the story.     **A huge thank you to Raquel Stecher from Candlewick Press for the hardback copy in exchange for a review**        

Friday, July 2, 2021

Review of Britfield and the Rise of the Lion by C.R. Stewart

Britfield & the Rise of the Lion by C.R. Stewart
Format:  ARC Paperback

Publisher:  Devonfield Publishing LLC 
Number of Pages:  361
Publishing:  July 4th, 2021
Source:  Review copy provided by Devonfield Publishing LLC

Opening lines:  "When the ferry from Dover, England, to Calais, France sunk in the English Channel, Tom and Sarah, who had become separated from Professor Hainsworth, vigorously rowed a lifeboat toward the French shoreline."

Britfield and the Rise of the Lion is the second book in C.R. Stewart's planned seven part series.  The first book, Britfield and the Lost Crown centered on orphans Tom and Sarah discovering that Tom's parents might be alive and he could be a member of the oldest family in England and a rightful heir to the British throne. In order to search for his parents, Tom and Sarah craftily planned a daring escape from Weatherly Orphanage in a hot air balloon.  This began a fast paced adventure across England, all the while being closely followed by Detective Gowerstone from Scotland Yard.

Six months have passed since their adventure in England, Tom and Sarah have been trapped at Mont-Saint -Michel monastery after being taken in by the monks when their ferry sunk off the coast of France.  Thomas is now in charge of cleaning the refectory while Sarah organizes the huge library, neither are happy with their lack of freedom and chores.  Concerned about whether their friend, Professor Hainsworth survived the ferry mishap, they plan their next escape.  Before being separated from the professor, Tom and Sarah were headed to Castle Chambord to locate news of any surviving Britfields, and maybe they'll also find the professor there waiting for them.

Having been freed from the island monastery and alone on the streets, Tom and Sarah attempt to make contact with Inspector Rousseau from the Paris police, Detective Gowerstone provided them her information as a reliable source to contact if any trouble should arise.  Before Sarah and Tom are even able to make contact, they are forced to flee when an assassin begins to track them down.  Just as things look bleak, Tom and Sarah are reunited with their friend Oliver from England.  Narrowly escaping the assassin, Oliver proposes they go to the Louvre where they might find documents about the Britfield family.  From there the trio are on a fast paced adventure across the streets of Paris, taking them to sights like Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower to Bordeaux and Lyon.

One of the things that I've so enjoyed about the Britfield series thus far is the way that the author draws you into the setting, there's a strong feeling of being immersed into the architecture, geography, history and culture of each new setting.   From the description of buildings, to the tidbits about each landmark.  Always enough to peak your interest without a dumping of information.  Balancing entertaining with factual.  The author had hoped to encourage children to appreciate the arts while reading exciting stories including these elements. 

In the first book, Tom and Sarah visited many of the landmarks of England, including Windsor Castle, Oxford University, Canterbury Cathedral etc.  This time they're in and around Paris, a city one day that I would love to visit.  It makes me want to sample some brie with bread and have a cafe' au lait while reading along. 

If the first book was about Tom and Sarah, this second book was about them encountering a new foe, "the committee," and Tom learning more about his link to the Britfield's.  I think that's the biggest change that I've noticed from the first book, Tom and Sarah dominated the first book, and had to rely on each other to escape the orphanage and evade Detective Growerstone.  They did receive some assistance from the professor and Oliver, but it seemed more informational.  The second book felt more about their connection to the people around them, mostly the adults who were helping them.  Detective Growerstone, Professor Hainsworth and Oliver are still present, but they're now joined by Inspector Rousseau, The Archbishop, Oliver's uncle, the Resistance fighters and many others.  It sometimes seemed that Tom and Sarah took a back seat in these instances, although logically it made sense because of the amount of help they needed, especially as the secret society began to ramp up their attack on Tom and Sarah.  

Rise of the Lion was also more action based then I recall in the first book, it kind of reminded me of a James Bond film where there's a global conspiracy, corruption, and a secret society bent on taking over the world.  Bombs, high tech gear, military style operations, drones and even a kidnapping and rescue attempt.  Yeah very exciting there toward the end of the book.  I quite enjoyed the direction the story took.   Interwoven into the book is a sense of camaraderie or family.  Sarah and Tom, even Oliver see each other as family, with a strong bond of friendship and loyalty toward one another.  They continue to be in danger, especially Tom because of his connection to the Britfield's and although Tom isn't closer to finding his parents, I can't help being excited for the next book in the series, Britfield and The Return of the Prince to see what happens next in Sarah and Tom's adventure.  **Thank you to C.R. Stewart for such an entertaining and exciting story and to Devonfield Publishing for the ARC paperback for my review.**                  

Thursday, July 1, 2021

MG review of Time Villains by Victor Pineiro

Time Villains by Victor Piñeiro
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Sourcebooks for Young Readers
Number of pages:  320
Publishing: July 16th, 2021
Source:  Publisher

Opening Lines:  "We found the table in some weird antique flea market."

Time Villians is the debut of a new series by author Victor Piñeiro, it's time travel with a twist on the classic question, "what three people, real or fictional, living or dead would you invite for dinner if you had the chance?"  

6th grader Javi Santiago loves to cook, sandwiches of all kinds are his specialty.  School, not so much.  Javi is really close to failing English when his teacher assigns the dreaded "which three guests would you invite to dinner" assignment.  Given the assignment is worth triple the points, Javi decides that he has to come up with a stellar guest list to impress his teacher and get an A+ to pass her class.   Enlisting the help of his best friend, Wiki and younger sister Brady, Javi sets the table, selects the guests, and prepares his most fabulous dish.  But then Brady finds a mysterious dinner bell hidden in a secret compartment of the table and upon ringing the bell actually brings their three fictional and historical guests to the table.  Young Mozart, John Montagu, aka the Earl of Sandwich and Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard the infamous Pirate are just as surprised as the three kids to suddenly appear.  After the dinner party is over,  chaos ensues when Blackbeard refuses to return to his time period.  Instead, he vows to bring back more pirates and take over their town.   Set at the fictional castle, Finistere, now turned into a school in Maryland the trio will have to draw help from their teachers and pull famous people thru time to track down and trick Blackbeard into going back.  

Time Villians includes a diverse cast of characters, Javi and Brady are Puerto Rican and Wiki is Haitian American.  There's lovely mentions of Puerto Rican inspired dishes made from fried plantains like tostone's and a jibarito sandwich.  Finistere, makes for a zany school, think something like Wayside Stories meets Story Thieves and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  And the trio's teachers will remind you of some other fictional characters from books.   The time travel aspects and premise are interesting, bringing to mind the question of what happens when changes are made in the past and how it might impact the future?  Readers will also enjoy all the various literary and historical characters and those interested can see a complete listing for all of the characters mentioned in the story in Wiki's Pedia of information at the back of the book.  Overall this made for a fun debut, although I am curious what will happen next as the premise includes the magical table bringing people from the past and I would think that they learned their lesson about who they might invite in the future.  Although the possibilities are limitless.  **A huge thank you to Ashlyn Keil at Sourcebooks for the E-ARC**