Review Detail

Kids Fiction 478
Close knit, magical sisters
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Riley and her sister Hattie work in their family's Korean alternative medicine practice in Los Angeles, but while Hattie is soon going to be initiated as a healer, Riley is "saram" and lacks magic. She was adopted, and while she loves her family, she is sad that she can't be part of their Gom world of healers. There are six gifted witch clans, each with a protective goddess, although one clan, the scholarly Horangi, has been banished after confrontations that led to the death of Riley's birth parents as well as her friend Emmet's mother. When Hattie expresses a desire to share her magic with her sister, the two investigate the possibility, and find that their family does have such a spell. They liberate the book in which it is written, obtain the ingredients, and plan to cast it at Hattie's initiation. All goes well until they are stopped by the elders, who tell them that the spell could possibly kill them both. Looking for other methods to share the magic, they decide to contact Mago Halmi, the mother of all creation, and plead for Riley to have powers. Instead, Hattie collapses and they end up summoning Gom's Cave Bear Goddess, who does have a plan. In exchange for a relic called the last fallen star, this goddess will not only give Riley powers, but she will restore Hatties life. Finding the last fallen star, when she has no idea where it could be, seems daunting, but with her sister's shrunken heart in a glass vial around her neck, there really isn't much choice but to get help from Emmett and other friends to find the relic. This quest takes them around Los Angeles as well as the magical realm, puts them in contact with a variety of magical creatures (I did enjoy the tiny talking horse, although others were scarier!), uncovers family and clan secrets, and teaches Riley a lot about herself.
Good Points
Riley is an appealing character who very much embodies a typical middle school students; it doesn't matter what they CAN do, they want to do the things they are told they CAN'T. It's nice to see a good sisterly relationship, and this reminded me a bit of Levine's The Two Princesses of Bamarre, one of my daughters' favorites. The secondary characters of Noah and Jennie are used well, as are the various adults. The magical creatures on the quest are exceptionally good, and this is nice and twisty-- I don't want to ruin any of the family secrets. The Korean culture, from Saturday school to food, to mythical creatures, is covered nicely. I am often confused by fantasy books, but Kim's writing kept me on track with a minimum of notes, which is quite an accomplishment. Looking forward to more by this author.
Weaknesses: This almost needed a list of characters and their respective clans at the beginning. The fact that there were six clans but five elements caused me some confusion. Wasn't keen on the theme that love is important, since loving people just means that eventually, they will disappoint you, but the target demographic doesn't know this yet.

This is probably one of my favorite of the Rick Riordan Presents titles, and I'll purchase it, and it will be popular with readers of DasGupta's Kiranmala series, Rivera's Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls, Alston's Amari and the Night Brothers, and the upcoming Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee. This is no doubt going to be a series!
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