I’ve not been a Dungeons & Dragons player but I’m certainly aware of its long standing popularity.
Madeline Roux (with illustrator Tim Probert) have created a fun adventure for primary and early secondary aged readers, featuring locations and characters worthy of the best D&D story.
Essentially, this novel is about friendship and diversity.
We meet Zelli, adopted by her two Minotaur mothers, who knows she is different from her classmates at the Dungeon Academy, where the focus is on learning to be fearsome and frightening. One day she stumbles across information in a textbook about Allidora Steelstrike, a skilled and famous adventurer, and Zelli’s world changes. The picture shows a human who looks a lot like Zelli herself. Could she also be of the Steelstrike bloodline – a human, not a monster or creature?
And if she is, what does that mean for her future at the Academy and within her family? After all, Academy students are being prepared to do battle with humans, to hate them and want to fight them.
So Zelli sets out on a quest to find Allidora Steelstrike and find out if she is a Steelstrike too.
But she’s not alone. Joining her are Hugo, a huge Owlbear who (unlike the rest of his kind) loves to eat vegetables and hates meat; Snabla (a juvenile kobold who wants to prove himself worthy of his father’s shield), and Bauble (a shapeshifting mimic of indeterminate gender).
The foursome are all misfits at the Academy, but together prove to be a force to be reckoned with.
In the process, Zelli learns that family is where you feel at home, and kindness is what really counts, along with courage.
All her life, her mothers had been preparing her for this moment – to stand tall and face down whatever adversity came to her. She tried to embody them, tried to feel nine feet tall and made of iron, with horns that could gore and hooves that could stampede. What she actually looked like, she didn’t know, but she felt in her heart like her adopted mothers’ daughter, a mighty minotaur.Dungeon Academy p136
Dungeon Academy is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in March 2022.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.
The first in a new series of graphic novels for younger readers, Lightfall is all about Bea, who lives with her adoptive grandpa, the wise (but forgetful) Pig Wizard. On a day when Bea is in the forest collecting ingredients for Gramps’ next batch of potions, she meets Cad, a Galdurian, a race of frog-like people thought to have been extinct.
The two strike up an unlikely friendship and Cad accompanies Bea home as he wants to ask Gramps for advice about how to find his missing people. But when they arrive at Bea’s home, Gramps is missing. He’s left a note to say that he is off an important magical errand, and Bea is not to follow him.
What Gramps has not told Bea is that the light in the jar he has given her, along with warnings NOT to lose it, is the last light of the sun. The light of their world has been fading and an ancient force is set on extinguishing the light forever. Bea and Cad must save the jar with its precious magic flame at all costs. And they need to find Gramps.
The story follows the setbacks and dangers they face along the way. What I enjoyed most is the friendship of two opposites: Cad is big, adventurous, optimistic and outgoing, where Bea is small and often anxious about doing the right thing or letting people down. The characters balance each other nicely and Bea must step out of her comfort zone many times on their journey.
Graphic novels are terrific for reluctant or early readers as the text load is lighter and readers can absorb a good chunk of the story through the artwork. I can see the Lightfall series becoming a popular addition to children’s bookshelves.
Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian was published by HarperAlley, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, in May 2021.
My thanks to the publishers for a copy to review.