Goodness, I love a good middle grade. Some of my all-time favorite series are technically in the category meant for 8-12 year olds, but a good story bypasses age, and it looks like Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic and Dream Magic have fallen into that grouping.
Frankly, these books blew me away. They were fun, dark, complex, intriguing, and filled to the brim with adventure. Shadow Magic hit shelves last year, and it’s sequel, Dream Magic, is out today in the US.
What’s it about? Here’s a quick summary:
In Book 2 of a three book series, things are dire for the inhabitants of Castle Gloom and the surrounding villages. The undead are leaving their graves in droves, a troll army is on the march from the north, and people are mysteriously disappearing from their homes. The people of Gehenna are blaming their misfortunes on Lilith Shadow, their young queen. They believe she has cursed them by using magic, a practice forbidden to women. With her trusty executioner among the missing and her blackguard soldiers busy battling trolls, it is up to Lily and her friend Thorn to root out the real cause of all the trouble. Their search will uncover ugly truths and eventually lead to a nightmarish confrontation with nothing less than the rulership of the realm at stake.
There are so many twists and turns in this book that it is wise beyond its years. These tweens are dealing with seriously adult issues, especially Lily, the reluctant ruler of the Shadow Kingdom. She must fight against fear, superstition and tradition to use her magic, while watching the enemies get closer on every side. Luckily she has Thorn in her life. Thorn is a fabulous character. I think he’s extremely well written, and I love how he doesn’t blink about anyone’s status. You are a person, and that’s it. his blunt, honest way of looking at the world has a simplicity that makes him a great balance to the complexities of this political world he’s found himself in, and balances Lily nicely. Round this out with a host of diverse, interesting secondary characters, and this book is a definite page turner.
And then there’s the magic! This series has a great take on elemental magic, which is done really well. In addition, the new surprises that keep popping up (in the way of crystal spiders, flying ships, and dream-talking ghosts, among others) keep the action-packed adventure leading the story.
I can’t recommend this book enough, especially if you’re a fan of fantasy or really well done middle grade in the realms of Riordan or Mull. Be sure to read Shadow Magic first, as Dream Magic picks right up after. Read it aloud to your kids, or read it quietly to yourself. Just read it, fantasy fans. It’s a great escape that harks back to getting lost in a truly good story as a kid. And that’s a wonderful feeling we all need more of in our lives!