Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Carnival Quest (Candy Shop War #3)

I read The Candyshop War  in 2007, and it majorly freaked me out. Also, I miss the blogging days when I could just dash off random blather about books rather than a formal review! Bought  Arcade Quest in 2013, and the two books still check out every now and then. For there to be a third book now-- I have questions. Are there any libraries that still have the other two books? Ten years is a long, long time in a #MGLit collection. There are three schools (including mine) in my district that have both, as does the public library, which is better than I thought. The first two books are available in paperback. 

It's great that Mull has finished ALL of his various series, and I'm curious to see what he will write next. I do hope he writes some stand alones, however, because if he sticks to the publication schedule of The Candyshop War, I might be retired by the time he's finished with a new series. 

And when I retire, I won't be reading any new middle grade literature. Vintage, maybe, but certainly not new books!

Mull, Brandon. Carnival Quest (Candy Shop War #3)
March 14th 2023 by Shadow Mountain
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Nate, who is about to start 6th grade at the new Diablo View Middle School in Colson with his friends Summer, Trevor and Pigeon. He's had some disturbing dreams that involve Mozag turning into an aardvark, and his informant, Rocco the sea gull (who talks to him after he east magical kibble) indicates that there are some mysteries goings on, so he's not overly surprised to see John Dart working in the school cafeteria as Lunch Lord. But there's also a lot going on at school. There's a new boy, Zac, and his sidekick Benji. Zac is a social media influencer who has millions of followers, and he feels a need to let everyone know about that. He befriends Nate, and offers his new friend tickets to the carnival that has been setting up. Zac has to take some videos and post for his sponsors. When Nate and the kids visit the Candy Shop and talk to Mr. Stott, he's concerned about the carnvial, he's concerned, and refuses to let Lindy (the former evil Belinda White) go anywhere near. Nate and his friends try to harness their own magic to stay safe, and work closely with John, Mr. Stott, and Sandra to ensure their safety. The carnival is heavily warded, and some of their magic won't work, so they are intrigued by the tickets and coins. The coins are very rare, but so are the opportunities to use them. They investigate the carnival thoroughly while Zac is making his videos, and uncover some disturbing people and some magical things. Preston White, the emcee, is fronting the business for Camilla White, so the children are on high alert. Somehow, the carnival is recruiting children who are sleeping, and the boundaries between dreams and realities are blurred. In other towns where the carnival has operated, people have gone missing, and it looks like this will happen in Colson if Nate and his friends can't figure out who is really behind Camilla's carnival and what their real goal is. Stott and Dart decide that Nate should fall asleep inside the carnival so that he can have access to all of the secret rooms. Sandra gives him a bracelet that will help her stay in contact with him if he needs to be rescued. It's a scary proposition, but Nate knows better than anyone that if someone wants to make all of your dreams come true, there is bound to be a price to pay. How high will Nate's price be?
Strengths: This starts with a map of the carnival that is actually easy to read and rather interesting; I almost wanted a map of Colson, and I NEVER want maps, so congratulations to the artist! It's good to see Nate and his friends at school, and John Dart's Lunch Lord was a fun touch. Including the social media influencer Zac was a fun choice that will draw in modern readers. The fact that the school planned a trip to an evil carnival made me laugh! There were a lot of really good lines, including the best description of clowns that I have ever seen: (from the E ARC) "Clowns are a disturbing kind of funny," Pigeon said. "Their happiness is contrived. It's all paint and giggles. You never know when they'll snap." I snort-laughed several times at some of the lines. There is plenty of mystery and clues, and a lot of magical details and background to sort through to solve  the mystery, and a very satisying conclusion. If you've stuck around long enough to read the whole series, you will not be disappointed. Could this work as a stand alone? It actually might not be too bad without the first two, although it's much better if you are able to get  The Candyshop War  and Arcade Quest.
Weaknesses: I personally would have liked this better had it been a little shorter. There's a lot of details about running around the carnival and also about the nature of dreams vs. reality that bogged the middle of this down a bit. Of course, fantasy is not my genre of choice. Fantasy fans will wish the book was longer. I do wish there had been more interactions with Nate's parents and his sister Cheryl. We see them only briefly, and I kind of missed them. The grandparents in Fablehaven are my favorite part! 
What I really think: I'll purchase this one for old time's sake, and it will see enough circulation to justify that cost. The first book still skeeves me out, although this one wasn't quite as bad. I've spent the last fifteen years recommending this series to students by telling them I hate it and that they shouldn't take candy from strangers, and the students have loved the book. Me? I'm never going anywhere NEAR any carnivals that come to my town. Readers of Arden's Small Spaces will find this a good series to pursue once they have finished Empty Smiles

It seems like a ton of fantasy books have come out in February and March. I buy such a small fraction of the fantasy books because I have so many of them and so few readers, but feel like I need to read them and keep up with all of the new middle grade titles. 

Anderson, Jodi Lynn. The Palace of Dreams (Thirteen Witches #3)
March 7th 2023 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I really liked Thirteen Witches, and ended up purchasing it, and it's been popular with my readers who like to think that they might someday be able to do magic. The Sea of Always was okay, but all I really remember about it was that they were stuck in the Time Whale for a really, really long while. This was a good conclusion, and was a little more space related than I remember the others being. I'm still not sure what happened at the end. The covers are fabulous, and a three book series is perfect for a nice present for a reader who loves magic and saving the world from evil. 
From the Publisher:
After barely escaping Earth with the League of Witch Hunters, Rosie and her friends are hiding out from the Nothing King and his witch followers on a barely inhabited planet. Then a messenger arrives with the unexpected news that Earth survived the Nothing King’s black hole, but only because he wants one last treasure before dragging everything into oblivion: the Museum of Imagined Things. Rosie saw the museum once when she visited the Brightweaver in the clouds. It is infinitely tall and made only of mist and figments, so Brightweaver was able to bundle it up and hide it for safekeeping.

The League of Witch Hunters, joined by a gaggle of the world’s last ghosts picked up from Limbo along the way, cross the galaxy in search of the museum and in preparation for their last showdown with the Nothing King. As Rosie and her allies weather surprises and betrayals while fighting to maintain their trust in each other, they may find the museum has one last secret in store.

Peckham, Anthony. Children of the Black Glass
March 7th 2023 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The cover of this gave me MAJOR Richard Cuffari/1970s vibes, and the story seemed familiar as well. Village with carts and huts and fires, children in dire peril in a magical world; even the style seemed reminiscent of LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea. The fantasy readers I have find high fantasy a hard sell, and this had that feel. Great story, well written, just not what I needed. Fifteen years ago I would have had to buy two copies to keep my LeGuin/Tolkien/Alexander fans happy. Sigh.

From the Publisher:
In an unkind alternate past, somewhere between the Stone Age and a Metal Age, Tell and his sister Wren live in a small mountain village that makes its living off black glass mines and runs on brutal laws. When their father is blinded in a mining accident, the law dictates he has thirty days to regain his sight and be capable of working at the same level as before or be put to death.

Faced with this dire future, Tell and Wren make the forbidden treacherous journey to the legendary city of Halfway, halfway down the mountain, to trade their father’s haul of the valuable black glass for the medicine to cure him. The city, ruled by five powerful female sorcerers, at first dazzles the siblings. But beneath Halfway’s glittery surface seethes ambition, violence, prejudice, blackmail, and impending chaos.

Without knowing it, Tell and Wren have walked straight into a sorcerers’ coup. Over the next twelve days they must scramble first to save themselves, then their new friends, as allegiances shift and prejudices crack open to show who has true power.

1 comment:

  1. I love creepy carnivals so I'll have to watch out for The Candy Shop War! :)