Dead Alley: A Motley Education Book by S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Number of pages: 315
Publishing: April 10th, 2023
Source: author in exchange for an honest review
Opening Lines: "Out of the shadows stretched a crooked finger; shiny metal coiling around it to form a ring."
In the first book of the series, sixth-graders Ebony Charmed and Will Fleishman were victorious in defending their school against Nidhogg's attack. Ebony has now become the Keeper of the Doors and Fleishman is her official advisor. Together they take care of the ghosts that reside in the boneyard, help to guide souls to their next destination and are knee deep in spirit training. Meanwhile their school is preparing for the Ullr games and in between lessons, they are trying to locate the dark elf that stole their friend Lance's body so that they can reunite his spirit with it. Just as Ebony feels like she is finally fitting in at school and embarks on her first mission to deliver a young toddler to the entrance to the afterlife, undead crows appear, and a mysterious illness begins to infect the ghosts. Searching for answers they come upon a premotion and myth that may be putting the entire boneyard in danger. Will Ebony and Fleishman be able to find the answers they need in the restricted section of Dead Alley and can they help their new sprit friend Lance while at the same time trying to dodge a new danger that has set their sights on revenge?
Dead Alley is the second book in the Motley Education series. It's very important to have read the first book in the series to be able to follow the storyline and understand the world and characters that Larsen has created. Overall, I've really enjoyed these books. I love the way in which Larsen describes the setting, including passages like this one: "The scent of moss hung heavily in the air. Stillness coated every surface, silence for all lay bound by an ageless slumber." Paints a nice picture of the boneyard doesn't it? Who doesn't love a paranormal story set in a graveyard, with all these ghosts and creepy undead crows hanging about. Even the main villain, Elli is downright creepy in the way that she targets those longing for something or who are lacking in self-confidence. I enjoyed how the chapters alternated between her and Ebony and Fleishman.
I also really like the two main characters; Ebony has learned a lot since the first book about her magic and talents, although she's still a little rusty when it comes to conjuring a door. Fleishman is such a dear adviser, always eager to talk things through and steer Ebony in the right direction. A huge theme I picked up on while reading was Ebony learning that she needed to trust people or believe in their trust of her. With Lance she needed to believe that he was trustworthy, that he isn't against her or will do her harm. With Fleishman, she needed to share her thoughts and be forthcoming with what actions she was taking. To believe that he would understand why she hadn't told him certain things and that he wouldn't judge her. I really enjoyed seeing this side to Ebony's character.
Finally, I really enjoy the Norse mythology included in the story. Learning more about Fenrir, Freya, and the battles where rune stones are used as weapons to get Ebony and Fleishman out of some sticky situations. Above all my favorite part was going down into the Archive and having book upon book for them to pursue seeking knowledge. Quite a fun adventure and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
**A huge thank you to S.A. Larsen for the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
I hope you'll check all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog .