Nielsen, Jennifer A. The Shadow Throne
February 25th 2014
by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
In this conclusion to The False Prince and The Runaway King, Jaron is back, although gravely wounded. While he is recuperating, he is debating whether he really wants to marry Amarinda when things settle down, but of course, things are not quiet in Carthya. Imogen has been captured by Vargan and the Avenians, but all agree Jaron can't go get her, because it is a trap. He sends Mott to get her, and sends Fink, Tobias and Amarinda to try to rally the Bymar forces. However, Jaron soon realizes that the Avenians really want Mott, so he goes to try to rescue them both, getting taken himself. But Jaron is too wily to be kept down for long, and before we know it, he's checking in with the pirates to obtain allies, sustaining more injuries, being double crossed, rappelling down cliffs, blowing things up, and deciding whether it is necessary to truly love someone before marrying them. But before long, Bevin has him in his clutches at Farthenwood, and it looks like Jaron, Roden and Tobias will all hang. Can Jaron use all of his thiefly wiles to save his own neck as well as his kingdom?
Strengths: This is a very exciting medieval fighting series that fans of Cadnum's Book of the Lion, Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice and Spradlin's The Youngest Templar series will adore. Great covers. Jaron is an underdog, and uses his tricks to survive and prosper. There are several nice twists in this conclusion that I wouldn't want to give away. Obviously buying this one, since several students are waiting for it.
Weaknesses: I've never been fond of Jaron. I'm not entirely sure he should be leading the kingdom-- he tends to survive on luck and some tricks that tend to lead to him getting injured rather than, you know, actual knowledge, planning and hard work. Students, of course, will not feel this way. I also have my reservations about whether the target demographic (teen boys) will care all that much about Jaron's debating between marrying Amarinda or Imogen and the Nature of Love.
Haskell, Merrie. Handbook for Dragon Slayers
May 28th 2013
Winner of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grades
Tilda is tired of being the caretaker of Alder Brook, since her father was killed in the Crusades and her mother is off trying to get a betrothal for her. Tilda just wants to run away to a cloistered scriptorium and write a book of her own thoughts, even though her life is lacking in adventure. She also feels bad that her lame foot causes the people of her kingdom to make fun of her, and makes no one want to marry her. When she heads off with her handmaiden Judith to help Sir Kunibert of Boar House with his books, she is kidnapped by her cousin Ivo. Ivo has already turned down the idea of marrying her, has caused Tilda's mother to have an accident that has broken her leg, and has planned to show up at Alder Brook on Christmas Day to receive the rents and oaths of the vassals and take over Alder Brook from Tilda. Tilda thinks this is a fabulous plan, but Ivo thinks she is plotting against him and just pretending to agree. Not to fear, Judith and Tilda's friend Parz (who has not been very successful as a squire and needs to redeem himself) rescue Tilda, but soon find themselves in the middle of the Wild Hunt. Tilda frees two of the horses, which angers the leader, who says that Tilda now owes a great debt, since no one refuses the Wild Hunt. After some adventuring and fighting of dragons, the girls end up at a cloister to recuperate from injuries. Parz is reunited with them, but the nuns have alerted Tilda's family, and Father Rupertus is sent to check on Tilda. Of course, Ivo knows where she is, too, and arranges for Tilda to be the 8th wife of Lord Egin. Ivo isn't going to take over Alder Brook-- he's going to sell off all the assets and bequeath the estate to another lord, leaving the people of Alder Brook with no one to watch out for their interests. Tilda and Rupertus manage to escape Egin, even though he has enchanted most everyone. Will Tilda be able to save herself, her friends, and Alder Brook?
Strengths: Tilda is a fabulous princess. She has her own plans and ideas of what she wants to do with her life, but when she finds that these are at odds with the well being of her people, she changes her mind somewhat. I didn't think I could stomach another European, medieval fantasy book, but this one was very fun. Will definitely buy a copy for the fans of fierce princess tales.
Weaknesses: While the magic elements in this are well done and quite surprising (I've left out a lot about what happens at the end of the book because I don't want to ruin it for people), I think the tale would be just as good without the magic. Got just a tiny bit confusing, but that might be because of my pernicious fantasy amnesia tendencies!