Black, Holly and Clare, Cassandra. The Golden Tower (Magisterium #5)
September 11th 2018 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by the publisher.
Call and his friends have narrowly escaped the evil Alex, who was sucked into Chaos, and after an unsuccessful attempt to bring his friend Aaron back from the dead, Aaron's spirit is living in Call's body and talking to him. This is problematic as the new school year starts and Call starts to have romantic feelings for Tamara, who seems to share them! Call is being given a hard time at school by people who think he is the Enemy of Death, even though Constantine's thoughts seem to be pretty well buried. Aaron does run into a strange thing in Call's mind-- hidden thoughts. Whose are they, and what will happen if Call accesses them? There are, of course, bigger issues, especially when Alex comes back and makes a series of demands on the Magisterium. These include a tower where he can rule, people brought to him so he can torture them, and basically, control over the world. Eventually, Call and his friends figure out (with the help of Warren the lizard!) that they can summon Alex, and stop him from being Devoured with the help of four different elemental Devoured. It's easy to get fire, since Tamara's sister Ravan is one, and the group travels to get a water and earth elemental. Alastair promises to find an air elemental, which he does in a very sad fashion. Once the plan is in place, Call can only hope that most of the school will survive, and that if he is successful, people will finally let him be.
Strengths: This is such a well-crafted fantasy book that I found myself that more fantasy were written by two people. Most everything really made sense, as if the authors sat around saying "Hmmm. I like that, but what if we tweak it this way." World building is so crucial in books like these, but sometimes is a bit weak. Even though there is a lot going on in these, I am able to keep everything straight because it is solidly explained. Five books is perfect for a series, and there are nods to the characters getting older. The romance is nice; I was going to say "but a bit overwrought", but what middle school romance isn't? Aaron living in Call's head is handled particularly well. An excellent ending to a solid series.
Weaknesses: The school underground in a cave, and the eating of mushrooms and fungi. Yes, it's a clever, unusual setting, but not one that I find appealing! Also, I found Alastair's course of action a bit odd. Did he really need to do that? I would have understood if he had been under more duress, but he didn't seem to be.
What I really think: This will check out the very first day of school-- there are three students who may end up fighting over it!
Sutherland, Tui. The Lost Continent (Wings of Fire #11)
Published June 26th 2018 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Blue and his sister Luna are very close to going through metamorphosis, after which they will be given jobs and have a very different life. Blue is a rule follower and thinks that his life in Pantala is pretty good. Sure, it would be nice if the HiveWings were nicer and the SilkWings had more freedom, and if his father hadn't disappeared right after his birth, but those are minor issues compared to safety and order. When Luna starts to feel poorly while undergoing metamorphosis, the siblings realize it is because she is a very rare FlameSilk, which the HiveWings consider a dangerous threat and turn over to Queen Wasp. Blue, while he wants to do what he is told, thinks this is a bad plan, and tries to rescue his sister. Luckily, he runs into Cricket, a HiveWing who does not get sucked into the HiveWing mind when they are all told to capture Blue. Cricket is a quirky, talkative creature, and so interested in Blue that she's glad to help him out. Along with Swordtail, who loves Luna and whom the two rescue from the suspended animation he is held in as punishment, they head toward the home of the Queen Wasp to rescue Luna. They also run into a family of LeafWings, who are supposedly extinct, and they threaten to kill the dragonets unless they bring the Book of Clearsight back with them. With the help of their daughter, Sundew, Blue and Cricket venture deep into the lair of the HiveWings and their queen, find the librarian, who is in thrall to the wicked queen, manage to get the book, and find other secrets as well. Clearly, things won't be able to stay as they are, and as Blue approaches his metamorphosis, he knows that when he awakens, he will have a lot of work to do, work that might point him in the direction of the Lost Continent and other secrets that have been long suppressed in his society.
While I am not a fan of long series involving different factions of dragons who all must fight the good fight, I can see the appeal of these books. My students are tremendously addicted to the Wings of Fire Series as well as the other series Sutherland helps to write, the Warrior Cats books. The arrival of the newest book is always a celebration.
The characters are fun and spunky, and have delightful quirks that help readers root for them even when they are a little misguided. Blue's optimism in the face of completely unpleasant living conditions is rather charming, as is his constant battle with following rules when that means dragons he love might not be saved. Cricket, as an "evil" HiveWing shatters Blue's perceptions and endears herself to him by wanting to help him, asking relentless questions, and having secrets her own people don't understand, like growing an extinct tree in her class terrarium project! Swordtail's devotion is touching, and Luna's confusion and fear at undergoing a major change under less than optimal conditions is something which young readers will understand.
The world building is also solid. My best friend in middle school was a huge fan of McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, and was constantly going on and on about different facets of their world. The Lost Continent describes and defines and unique and well constructed dragon world, starting with a map of regions at the beginning, along with the back history of Clearsight and descriptions of the different kinds of dragons. These are the details that readers who want to submerge themselves in imaginary worlds crave, memorize, and endlessly repeat in conversations with other fans.
There's plenty of adventure, traveling across the dragon world, danger, and occasional breaks for honey drops and other delicacies. This series is easier for me to follow than the Warriors, since there is generally a more defined quest centered on a main character with fewer supporting ones. Fans of Park's Wing and Claw series, Rocha's Secrets of Bearhaven and Kathryn Lasky's series like The Guardians of Ga'Hoole or Bears of the Ice will find this newest volume in the Wings of Fire series a worthy follow up to previous volumes.