Review Detail

4.3 16
Middle Grade Fiction 240
4 and 1/2 stars. Fresh and fun!
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Reader reviewed by Denise

All their lives, sisters Meryl and Addie have played at saving their
people from the specters, ogres, dragons, gryphons, and the mysterious
Gray Death that plague their cowardly father's kingdom. Brave Meryl
always played the hero, while shy and cowardly Addie always took the
part of the damsel in distress. Both sisters were comfortable in their
roles and never questioned their futures, until Meryl falls ill with the
deadly Gray Death. Always following a specific progression, and always
ending in death, Addie knows exactly how many days her sister has left
before she succumbs to the illness. Empowered by a prophecy that claimed
the Gray Death would be vanquished when "Cowards find courage," Addie
battles her fears and, racing against time, she sets out to find a cure
to save her sister.

Supplied with a cloak that helps the wearer blend into the shadows
(but it doesn't work on dragons and specters), a table cloth that
provides an endless supply of food, seven league boots, a spyglass that
allows the viewer to see over long distances and through walls, and an
elfin herb that provides strength and dampens pain, Addie finds she must
rely upon her own ingenuity if she is to find a cure and make it back
to the castle alive. A handsome wizard provides sporadic moral support
and an invisible stranger lends an occasional helping hand, but this is
not a story where the hero triumphs with the help of a gaggle of
friends. Instead, Addie is pretty much on her own and she must learn to
find strength, courage, and ability within herself instead of always
relying on others.

While much of the plot was predictable and neatly tied together, the
story didn't feel stale or boring at all. Addie was very easy to like
and while it is obvious from the outset that she will find courage, her
progression from timid coward to capable woman is paced well and
enjoyable to read. I also liked that she found courage in her own way.
She never became a daring swordswoman charging into battle like her
sister, but she instead found confidence in and developed her own
strengths and abilities. The secondary characters were all likable, but
though the wizard worked as a love interest for Addie, his type of
character wasn't my favorite. Given this is pretty much a solo story and
Addie needed to stand on her own, I can see how GCL couldn't really
make him a more prominent or involved character. Still, I wish he had
been more...useful or accomplished. He wasn't really Addie's equal by
the end of the story.

What really made the story interesting was the world GCL created and
the creatures she populated it with. Instead of the typical witches and
goblins, we got specters and gryphons. The specters added a level of
fear and interest that was different from the norm. That specters could
appear as anyone was creepy, and the puzzle that presented in having to
figure out who was real and who was a specter made for some fun scenes.
Sure, gryphons aren't exactly unique, but the way they were used in the
story gave a slightly fresher spin on things. Same goes with the ogre
and, especially, the dragon Addie encounters. The dragon was a real
scene-stealer, and, refreshingly, she wasn't very human. Though she
possessed some human-like traits, overall her way of thinking was
definitely different. She wasn't a villain, but she wasn't good either.
All of her scenes were very interesting to read and refreshingly
different from how dragons are often portrayed.

Reading about and trying to guess how Addie should best use the
resources she had at hand was fun. Sometimes she didn't come to the
smartest conclusion, but she usually did sooner or later. The epic poem
about the hero Drualt woven throughout the story added an extra layer of
depth to the world and was a nice way for the author to foreshadow
events and provide lessons without being too heavy handed (though she
wasn't exactly subtle, either). The ending was not my ideal, but it
worked. I wasn't expecting to like this story as much as I did, but it
was a fun, nice read and I was pleasantly surprised. Recommended.

Reprinted here with the author's (my) permission.
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