Children's Book Reviews

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Delacorte, 560 pages
Hardcover, August, 2005
ISBN: 0385730292
Ages Young Adult
Ordering information:

Rebel Angels
by Libba Bray In A Great and Terrible Beauty, Victorian schoolgirl Gemma Doyle found out that her mother was a member of the Order, a group of female sorcerers who can travel to another dimension where magic runs free. During her adventures, Gemma discovered the evil sorceress Circe was responsible for the death of Gemma's mother. Gemma also found out that she has the power of the Order, and used that power to smash the runes, thinking that she was stopping a great evil. Now, two months later, Gemma discovers that her actions have unleashed the wild magic of the realms, making it available to creatures both good and evil. Back in London for the Christmas holidays with her increasingly opium-addicted father and her doctor brother, Gemma renews her acquaintance with the handsome Kartik, a member of the all-male Order of Rakshana, who tells Gemma that she must find the hidden Temple in the realms and bind the magic once again. The Rakshana have secretly ordered Kartik to kill Gemma as soon as she finds the Temple, so that the Rakshana can wrest control of the realms away from the Order. Now Gemma and her friends Felicity and Ann must travel through the increasingly dangerous paths of the realms to find the Temple. But Circe is also on the trail of the Temple, and may even be masquerading as someone in Gemma's life.

The straitlaced world of an upper-class teenage girl in Victorian England is brilliantly contrasted with the wild and untamed realms, where the girls have great power; they have only to wave their hands to achieve their fondest desires. But the more the magic spirals out of control, the more bizarre and unappealing the realms become. Libba Bray has constructed a fascinating mystery puzzle (who and where is Circe?) which is set against a vivid and lush portrayal of life in the ton. Gemma meets the handsome and titled Simon Middleton, and she observes society's disapproving reactions to Kartik, who is of Indian descent. She has so many choices to make: about her friends, her father, her life and how to do the right thing. But Gemma is a fighter, and she's not going to let Circe, society or her family stop her from doing what she must do.

Libba Bray has created a vivid and imaginative world steeped in an atmosphere of imminent danger. The realms are an especially fascinating place, with interesting new characters such as the gorgon, who has been turned into a ship for her past betrayal of the Order. Gemma learns quite a bit more about her friends' lives in this book, and their stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The dialogue rings true, the prose is crisp and clean, and the plot is compelling. But it is Libba Bray's wit and humor that ties it all together into a story you won't soon forget.

-Claire E. White

The Dark Hills Divide (The Land of Elyon Book 1) by Patrick Carman

Orchard Books, February, 2005
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN: 0439784549
Young Adult
Ordering information:

The Dark Hills Divide (The Land of Elyon Book 1)
by Patrick Carman 12 year-old Alexa Daley adores books and libraries, so she loves the summers when she and her father go to the city of Bridewell and stay in the old lodge, which has the best library in the land of Elyon. Bridewell and the surrounding cities are totally walled in to keep out the mysterious (and unamed) denizens of the forests and The Dark Hills. A curious child, Alexa has always wondered what life is like outside the walls. When Alexa's friend and the town's founder Warvold dies while out on a walk with her, Alexa finds a mysterious tiny key that Warvold has kept hidden all these years. Alexa takes the key and begins exploring. She makes it outside the wall and discovers a shocking secret that has been hidden from the inhabitants of Elyon. With the help of a mysterious stone that allows her to talk with the animals, Alexa must stop a gang of convicts from attacking the peaceful city.

Alexa is an unusual fantasy heroine: she has two parents that love her, for one thing. She's a likeable girl who loves books, but has an adventurous streak. There are clearly more secrets to the walled city than are revealed in book one, and author Patrick Carman is sure to have many readers eager to read the next installment in the series.

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