Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Secret of the Shadow Beasts by Diane Magras!

I love 'happy book birthday' posts, and today's is no exception. This read swings in a fantasy direction and has kids as the knights fighting beasts to save the world...because adults are no longer immune to the beasts' venom. I enjoyed the 'team' atmosphere on the cover and was curious what sort of beasts would pop up...because these promise to hold quite a bit of fantasy.

Ready to dive into the action? 

by Diane Magras
Dial Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
336 pages
ages 8 to 12

For fans of Dragon Pearl and the Lockwood & Co. series comes a swift-moving contemporary fantasy about a young girl tasked with destroying deadly shadow creatures.

In Brannland, terrifying beasts called Umbrae roam freely once the sun sets, so venomous that a single bite will kill a full-grown adult--and lately, with each day that passes, their population seems to double. The only people who can destroy them are immune children like Nora, who are recruited at the age of seven to leave their families behind and begin training at a retrofitted castle called Noye's Hill. But despite her immunity, Nora's father refused to let her go. Now, years after his death by Umbra attack, Nora is twelveand sees her mother almost killed by the monsters too. That's when Nora decides it's time for her to join the battle. Once she arrives at Noye's Hill, though, she and her new friends are left with more questions than answers: Where are the Umbrae coming from? Could the government be covering up the true reason their population has whirled out of control? And was Nora's father, the peaceful, big-hearted man who refused to let Nora fight, in on the treacherous secret?



With a slight gamer flair, this is a quick adventure with interesting creatures, forming friendships, and more than a little action.

Nora's father died when attacked by a terrible beast, and Umbrae, and when she almost losses her mother in a similar attack, she realizes that she can and should do something to stop the beasts. While adults die from a single bite of these monsters, Nora and other children are immune. Despite her father's wish for Nora never to become one of the knights, she contacts the government and soon finds herself heading off to training. Nora has a talent for fighting the beasts and is quickly placed on a team and given a mission. But as she heads out to fight the beasts, secrets begin to emerge, which places more than a few things in a new and concerning direction.

Nora is an energetic and kind character, who cares quite a bit for her family, friends and team. Despite her fighting talent, she never comes across as arrogant or overly tough, and works very well with her team. But then, the relationship with the various members is positive and supporting as well. Her team members are there for each other and do what they can for one another. Even many of the adults offer their support and encouragement. So, there's a very positive atmosphere, in general, which is good because the plot itself has darker tones. 

This read takes a rougher twist offering tenser moments and harsher fight scenes. The creatures are dangerous and the attacks brutal. So, while this maybe isn't for overly sensitive readers, it's nothing beyond the middle grade range, either. The tension stays high, but there's still a nice balance between action and slower moments. 

At the beginning of each chapter, there's a cube with sayings, information, or thoughts which added a nice touch. The writing itself flows well and keeps the pacing high. There is, however, a little missing in the descriptions and background information, which made the world and setting a little unclear, at times. I hope that some of this will be explained and deepened in an upcoming book...which I'm saying, although I'm not sure there will be more or not and can only hope that more adventures are to come, since this would make a nice series.

And here she is...

Diane Magras (she/her) is the award-winning author of The New York Times Editors’ Choice The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, as well as its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. An unabashed fan of libraries (where she wrote her first novel as a teenager), history from all voices, and the perfect cup of tea, Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son. You can find her at www.dianemagras.com.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Diane's new fantasy sounds interesting. I've been way more interested in contemporary fantasy lately, so I'll try to check it out.