Saturday, July 30, 2022

Today's read... Alliana, Girl of the Dragons by Julie Abe

 Isn't the cover on today's read an invitation to fantastical dreams? Okay, maybe riding on the back of a dragon would be a little more than I'd be up for...well, unless I knew for certain that it was a friendly dragon. Maybe, you're more daring?

Anyway, the cover already drew my attention to this one. Add that it's a Cinderella retelling...of sorts...and I was definitely curious. This one comes out in just a few days, so if it catches your attention, you won't have to wait long to get your hands on a copy.

Ready to soar above the clouds?

by Julie Abe
Contributions by Shan Jiang
Little Brown Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
336 pages
ages 8 to 12

AUGUST 2nd!!!

Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.

Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?

Inspired by the Japanese Cinderella story and set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, this story can be read as a standalone.



With warm friendships, dreams of the world beyond, and a touch of magic, this nod toward Cinderella takes a twist all of its own and invites to a wonderful, fantasy world.

Alliana works at the inn of her step-mother, trying to repay an impossible debt after her birth parents have both passed away. She dreams of traveling beyond her small town to a place where witches and wizards train...not that she has an ounce of magic. When a herb-gathering outing takes her to the edge of the dangerous rift, beyond whose shield dangerous creatures live, she rescues a baby dragon. Amazingly, she can hear its thoughts. But then, she always has seemed to have a special way with animals. Others have noticed this, too, but Alliana never guessed it would bring a real witch to her doorstep. And she never guessed the witch would want her help to fulfill an important task. But to do so would mean leaving the inn and the evil step-mother, betraying the written wishes in the will of the only person Alliana adored. Plus, her debt needs to be paid, or she'll never truly be free.

While taking on a bit of the Cinderella tale, this story goes beyond that border and reaches in new directions, which don't require the Cinderella constraints at all. Still, there's a sweetness in seeing the parallels with Cinderella as Alliana works for her step-mother and struggles to go beyond her borders (many actually self-constructed). She's kind-hearted, sympathetic, and it's hard not to pity her situation, although the reader might not agree that she shouldn't just pack up and run away. When she does, finally, begin to head into adventure, she's a heroine to root for.

Friendships are a shining light as Alliana first has a relationship with her 'grandmother' and a baker's son, before developing one with the witch and more. The author knows how to build these and pack each relationship with the right amount of emotion and heart. The villains, on the other hand, were nasty and dislikable, and stand as a nice opposites to the friendships. Other characters, however, didn't get the same depth and felt more superficial as they weaved in and out of the plot.

While the world and story are very well done and kept me in the pages until the very end, I did expect a bit more magic and...well, dragons. While the dragons are there, they run as a lighter side-plot, which works fine and creates a wonderful read, too. A reader just shouldn't go into this one with the same dragon expectations, which are held in other, currently popular reads for this age group. Even the magic takes a lighter role than I expected, but it is a fun one, which adds a wonderful, whimsical touch. And let's not forget the pastries because those alone are like a dream, making the reader wish they could have a bite. 

Summed up, this is a well done read, which holds the reader the entire way through. There's much to enjoy, and the tale flows more than smoothly...probably smoother than a true ride on a flying dragon would ever be. I do recommend it to fantasy fans and found it to be a lovely read.

And here she is...

Julie Abe has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea, where she creates stories about magical adventures. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is her debut novel, of which Kirkus said in a starred review: “Bewitching… a must-read for fantasy lovers.” Julie is also the author of Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch and Alliana, Girl of Dragons. Visit her online at

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad you enjoyed Julie's new book. I've read other books by her that I've really liked. I'll have to try this one too.