Thursday, June 23, 2022

Secret of the Shadow Beasts

Magras, Diana. Secret of the Shadow Beasts
June 14th 2022 by Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nora and her mother live on a farm in Brannland, and narrowly survive an attack by Umbrae in spider forms, the likes of which had previously killed her father. Even though Nora is immune to the venom of these shadow beasts and could have been sent off to train as a knight who would fight them, her father wanted her to have a normal childhood. Since only children have immunity to the Umbrae venom, Nora is motivated by the attack to contact the government and volunteer to leave her mother and fight the beasts as a knight in the MacAskill order, even though it means leaving home and her best friend Wilfred. The government does provide help for her mother, and whisks Nora off to a castle to be trained and to join a group that will go on two week missions to fight the Umbrae that are devastating the countryside. The Umbrae haven't always been a problem, but humans disturbing their habitats have caused them to prey on humans, especially adults, although they pause slightly before attacking children. Even though she has had no formal training, Nora's skills are formidable, and she impresses the administration enough to be put on a team with Amar, Cyril, Tove, and Eve, who is very bitter about the death of a teammate and close friend. Most of the team is friendly and impressed with Nora's skill, including Murdo, who is older and leads the team on their first mission. Interestingly, the other teams who also fight Umbra keep to themselves, and Nora is chided for her friendly overtures to them. Two weeks of fighting Umbrae all night isn't easy, and since right before leaving, a woman named Nadia Bakari had mentioned to Nora that she knew Nora's father, Nora is a little distracted. Even though Nora fights well, it's clear that she needs some training. Not only does Nora reveal some secrets, but there are bigger secrets involving decades old abatement methods for the Umbrae that may have made the problem worse. Will Nora and her team be able to put this history of the knights into perspective, as well as survive the fights with the horrible creatures?
Strengths: Nora was an engaging character who was torn between making her parents happy, and doing the best for her community. It seems realistic that she would be motivated to join the knights, and her involvement with video games that she plays with Wilfred might explain her well developed fighting skills. There's a little bit of a Harry Potter feel to the castle where the group trains, which will appeal to fantasy readers who like "academy" tales. The cast is somewhat diverse, and the secrets add an interesting layer to the story, which has plenty of action and adventure. It was good to see that the adults in the story are all fairly supportive. This seems like it could have a sequel. 
Weaknesses: While there was a little of the genesis of the Umbra and the history of Brannland, I still felt a bit unsure of the location and time period of the setting. There was technology, but also castles and bothys. Perhaps there will be more explanation in a subsequent adventure. Nora's extremely good fighting skills made it feel like she must have been trained when she was young, but this doesn't seem to have been the case.
What I really think: This is a good title for fans of this author's The Mad Wolf's Daughter , and its sequel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf's Daughter, George's The Rose Legacy series (which this reminded me strongly of), Short's The Mutant Mushroom TakeoverMartin's The Monster Missionsand other fantasy adventure titles where only tweens can save the day. 

Also out now:

Kim, Graci. The Last Fallen Moon (Gifted Clans #2) 
June 7th 2022 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The Last Fallen Star was one that I really enjoyed, and it has circulated fairly well, but I really hope this wraps up after the next book. Three books is about all my readers have patience for, and even really good series, like Chokshi's Aru Shah, tend not to circulate after the third book, even when I recommend them. 

I'll definitely purchase this, but my Fantasy Amnesia acted up when I read this in the middle of three weeks of state testing!

For Riley Oh, life as the Godrealm’s last fallen star is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her new divine heritage doesn’t even come with cool magical powers; half of her friends and family (including her parents) can’t remember her; and to top it all off, the entire Gom clan is mad at her for killing the Cave Bear Goddess and stripping away their healing abilities.

But when their anger boils over and a group of witches curse Riley’s home, she knows it’s up to her to restore magic back to her clan – even if it means sneaking into the Spiritrealm.

Luckily, Riley has some backup. Along with her sister, Hattie, Riley meets Dahl, a heaven-born boy with shockingly white hair and a fondness for toilets who might not be telling the whole truth about who he is. Together they’ll fight vicious monsters, discover dark underwater worlds, and race to save the land of the dead from a fate that no one could have foreseen.

And this time, Riley won’t let anything get in her way. Because she can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is coming their way – and the gifted community is going to need all the powers they can get.

No comments:

Post a Comment