Middle Grade Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Series: Pandava Quartet
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?


When Aru Shah was announced three years ago I was *so* excited. I love that Rick Riordan used his influence to find and promote diverse voices to create a wealth of mythological modern-fantasy that he could never have created on his own. I was so excited to hear a new take, a new set of myths that I wasn’t already familiar with, a female perspective. And then I just … never read it? I’m so glad I finally did!

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3+
Content Warnings: asylums, self-harm, harm to animals
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own. 


It seems like I’ve read a lot of books about Doors in the past few years, but The Ten Thousand Doors of January has definitely been my favorite.

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Review: We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Series: Sands of Arawiya
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.


We Hunt the Flame was incredibly entertaining, and in that way completely lived up to my expectations. But it was also super trope-y, which I personally found a little disappointing.

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Review: Black Sun

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Series: Between Earth and Sky
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


WOW WOW WOW!!!! I was expecting something special from Black Sun because Roanhorse is such a fantastic writer, but all of my expectations were completely blown out of the water. This book is exciting, smart, unique, and so. dang. GOOD.

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Middle Grade Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.


THIS BOOK!!! WOW!!! I mean, what can I even say?, it won every award there is pretty much, and deserved it. It’s just so fabulous.

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Middle Grade Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.


Wow. I don’t even know what else to say about this book other than that it’s amazing and perfect and should be in every classroom, school, and child’s library. I mean, just, WOW.

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Review: The Angel of the Crows

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4- (non-graphic disembowelment)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


I loved this book! Sherlock fan-fiction set in a London with every supernatural creature you’ve ever thought of (and some you haven’t) and a vaugly steampunk vibe, plus Jack the Ripper. What’s not to love?

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6 British Historical Fantasy Recommendations

I don’t know about anyone else, but historical fantasy is one of my very favorite sub-genres. I love when authors can play with alternate histories, and imagine how things might be different if there were dragons, or magic. While I prefer when it’s England proper, many authors create English-inspired nations and worlds. I especially love when authors are able to capture the tone of literature from that era, but update it to be fun for the modern reader.

Because, in my opinion, fantasy should be fun in the end.

So for you’re pleasure I’ve created a list of recommendations for historical fantasy based on the different eras of British history.

Tudor Era

The Tudor era is one of my favorite time periods to read about, but it’s not often adapted for fantasy. I don’t know why as it’s the perfect era for it. Sword-fighting, knights, dragons, they would fit in well here.

However, the second book of the All Souls Trilogy, titled Shadow of Night, involves time traveling to this very era! We even get to meet some of the giants of the time, including Kit Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth herself. I loved how it really submerged the reader into the culture and time period, and the details were so accurate. I’m also a huge sucker for time travel. While this wasn’t my favorite series (nice vampires again, snooze), I did really enjoy this book, and I think it’s worth reading if for no other reason than some good ol’ Tudor witches.

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Review: The Year of the Witching

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her. 


If you like atmospheric, brooding novels about witches toppling the patriarchy, look no further! If you’re looking for something mature and nuanced, or if you’re looking for terrifying horror, this isn’t the right book for you.

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Middle Grade Review: Shadow Weaver

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Shadow Weaver
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Emmeline’s gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she’s grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.


Having made my way through the other Texas Bluebonnet nominees for 2019-2020, I’m just not sure how this book made the list. It was fine, but there are so many better middle-grade fantasies out there with more nuance and depth. Nor was this book exciting enough that you could categorize it as a “fun” read.

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