Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

If you’ve been here a while you might know that I’m a massive fan of Julie Abe and her Eva Evergreen books – they’re some of my favourite middle grade fantasies, so I jumped on the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for her latest book, Alliana, Girl of Dragons. And it’s just as wonderful!

Book: Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

Publication date: 2nd August 2022

Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge via TBR and Beyond Tours, but I will be purchasing my own hardback copy! All opinions my own.

Content warnings: Childhood emotional abuse/neglect (not intense/graphic; sort of what you’d expect from a middle grade Cinderella story); parental and other family death and grieving.

Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.

Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?

Inspired by the Japanese Cinderella story and set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, this story can be read as a standalone.

This is a wonderful read, just exactly the kind of middle grade that I like. Like the Eva Evergreen books before it, it’s a story that balances bravery and kindness, magic and hard work, friendship and self-belief. I really loved how the Cinderella elements were woven into the story in a way that felt natural and believable – yes, it’s a familiar story, but the way that it’s done is so deft that it feels like a plot that’s unique to these specific characters. Just as with Eva’s story, this still feels like a big, intricate world in which hundreds of stories could be told, so it was fun to see a new slice of life – but if you loved Eva’s fiery kindness and the dreamy Ghibli-esque world, you’ll love this too.

Alliana is an incredibly likeable heroine, and it’s easy to fall in love with her early on as she struggles through life with her awful stepfamily. Her relationship with her grandmother is lovely, and brings a lot of heart to the early part of the book, as it gives a speck of light that allows the good parts of Alliana’s character to shine; it also provides a really great answer as to why she doesn’t just run away from the abuse she suffers. The heartbreaking thing about Alliana’s situation is that she has known love, so the neglect she suffers from her stepmother and stepsiblings is so much more crushing in comparison. The book never lingers on the darkness or misery of the story – in part thanks to Alliana’s indomitable spirit – and though there are some surprisingly dark parts, this feels incredibly cosy to read. The focus on friendship, and how friends can become family, was lovely, and well-textured – I particularly liked that side characters had their own relationships between themselves, rather than a secondary cast being only identified by their interactions with Alliana.

I knew this book was set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen books, and I remembered Alliana’s name as being familiar, but I actually hadn’t paid much attention to the blurb because I knew from the moment it was announced that I wanted to read it, so I was caught off-guard when Nela popped up, and when I realised who she was I was just beaming! I really wasn’t expecting there to be so many actual links back to Eva’s story throughout the book – this was completely delightful. We get to see multiple characters from the Eva books at a different time in their lives, and I loved getting to know them from a different angle. That being said, there is absolutely nothing in this book that would require you to have read the Eva series first – it’s more like an extra layer of enjoyment for existing fans, but Alliana itself stands completely alone as a readable story. You could read either first (as long as you do read them!).

I really hope that there will be a sequel to this book, because I think that Alliana and her friends have a lot more adventures in them, and there seems to be space for them in the world! I certainly want to know a lot more about the nightdragons in particular, and about where Alliana’s friendship with Kabo, her dragon friend, will take her next. But then, I’d read anything Julie Abe wants to write – just more wonderful cosy magical MG like this, please! Five out of five cats!

You can grab a copy of the book here, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour!

6 thoughts on “Blog Tour: Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

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