I’m really enjoying some comfort reading at the moment, so of course I’ve turned to middle grade fantasy for some mild peril and magic. All of these were sent to me free of charge via NetGalley or by the publisher, but as always my opinions are my own – and here they are!
The Nowhere Thief by Alice M Ross
I enjoyed this immensely! It’s sort of a middle grade cross between The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman and The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones, with a girl who can cross between ‘Somewheres’, worlds similar to ours but not quite the same. It seems to borrow a lot from the young Chrestomanci, with its themes of cross-world smuggling, dangerous family, and parallel worlds arranged in ‘series’, but the plot saves it from being derivative – it’s a fun and fast-paced read that really feels like a confident debut. The characters are very well-rounded and likeable, and I hope that was a hook for a sequel I spotted at the end!
Yesterday Crumb and the Teapot of Chaos by Andy Sagar
I loved the first book in this series, so when the second one popped up on NetGalley I was very excited! This is a fabulous cosy middle grade about a young girl who works in a magical teashop – it’s got the perfect amount of practicality, heart, and whimsy to really press my buttons. In this second book, Yesterday’s teashop is stolen by a wicked faery, and she and her friends must journey to the Seelie Court and take part in a magical cookery competition to get it back. It’s fast-paced and fun, and I loved getting to see all the different types of magic – the story expands the world-building really well, while still capturing all the practical charm of Yesterday and her friends. Really great!
Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere by Ruth Lauren
What a sweet magical read this was! Bursting with family intrigue and heartfelt feelings, this is a lovely witchy adventure that feels really cosy even though it’s quite exciting. I loved the concept of magic that only works in October, and Clemmie’s family is endearingly chaotic and very well-written. A really lovely read if you’re looking for something atmospheric without actually being scary – it would suit fans of Stephanie Burgis and James E Nicol very much.
The Time Tider by Sinéad O’Hart
Wow, this was such a stunning read! Mara’s dad is the Time Tider, a man who harvests unused time, and as soon as she discovers this, he’s kidnapped and she’s plunged into a headlong chase to save him. I actually thought this was going to be more focused on a time-travel element, but it’s actually a fairly contemporary thriller, just with that supernatural element, which was hugely fun and incredibly engrossing – I read it in one sitting! It’s pretty dark and feels like it would be good for the upper end of the age range (there is some gun violence and it doesn’t flinch away from talking about death), but if the reader can handle the content, this is a fabulous, thrilling adventure.
Vita and the Gladiator by Ally Sherrick
This one is historical, rather than fantasy, but it’s still a fast-paced, exciting read! When Roman girl Vita’s father is murdered, she ends up kidnapped and sold to a gladiator training school as a maid. It’s a bit darker than a lot of middle grade, with quite a lot of violence, death and animal cruelty in the arena, and Vita is 14, so this might be better for the upper end of the age range, but it’s an enthralling look into the underbelly of Roman London. I really loved the tense plot and the immersive historical feel!
Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest by Liz Flanagan
This was a really cute eco-focused story that has all the right ingredients: a plucky, caring heroine, a mystical forest, and a baby dragon! All the characters are really likeable, especially protagonist Rowan, and while there is plenty of excitement, this feels like a gentle, charming story that will touch a lot of hearts. I’m looking forward to the sequel!