Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Just as the fairy tale in the third book of this series came to an end, a new one with unexpected twists and plots opened. Quests for Glory, the fourth book in the School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani, follows the fourth-year pupils of the School for Good and Evil as they journey on the quests that have been assigned to them. 

Just a quick background on the world: The School for Good and Evil is set in a fairy tale world and has two school within it: a School for Good and a School for Evil. Based on their nature, the children are separated into these two schools. When each student reaches their fourth year, they are assigned a quest, and the Storian (and enchanted pen) writes and illustrates their adventures as a new fairy tale. King Arthur of Camelot, Cinderella, and many more were students at the School for Good and Evil. The characters who were introduced in the first book of this series, Sophie and Agatha, are now in their fourth year.

The fourth-year pupils are off on their assigned quests, but the quests do not seem to be going as hoped. Tedros cannot lift Excalibur to take what he thinks is his rightful place as king, Agatha is not as happy as she’d hoped in Camelot, and from the looks of Professor Dovey’s (Dean of the School for Good) magical quest map, the other students are not doing well either. A mysterious force seems to be working against the success of the students’ quests, and its ultimate goal becomes more and more apparent with its every move: Tedros’ place in Camelot. Professor Dovey begins to realize that perhaps the quests the fourth-year pupils have been given are not their real tales. 

I had read the first three books in The School for Good and Evil series about a year ago, and I had forgotten how full of humor and artful drama Soman Chainani’s writing is. The characters he creates are so vivid, unique, and enjoyable to read about. If you have not read this series, I would suggest it if you like books based on fairy tales (many of the students at the School for Good and Evil are children of famous fairy tale heroes and villains). This book was an exciting, magical, and humorous read which I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy.

– Mia T.

Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Have you ever imagined the fairy tales you read as a child having different endings, different villains, different heroes? Have you ever wondered how Ursula became so evil, why kings like to assign three impossible tasks to win their daughters’ hand in marriage, or if the Minotaur was really the monster he was accused of being?

Though inspired by fairy tales, mythology, and classic stories, the six stories in Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns go beyond the basic tales. They are all short stories written in the style of a fairy tale. Although these stories are set in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s other novels, they made sense even though I hadn’t read any of her other work (now, after reading The Language of Thorns, I look forward to reading Leigh Bardugo’s other books).

Leigh Bardugo creates such a detailed, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world, and in it she expands upon and adds her own ideas to well-known tales. These stories are elegant and some are a bit creepy (if I had known this before reading, I may not have picked up the book, but now I am glad I did–I really enjoyed reading this book despite the darker parts), and the excitement of the stories combined with the amazing writing makes the book so hard to put down.

I loved how each of the stories had a twist at the end—maybe the villain in a story was not the same character in the original fairy tale (or someone you hadn’t even considered) or the real source of the conflict was an immense surprise. These stories did not always end with a happily ever after, and although I do like happy endings, this was a refresher from the widely expected endings of fairy tales. It made the stories a bit more exciting and unpredictable.

Some of the parts I loved most about this book were the illustrations and borders created by Sara Kipin. At the start of each story there are one or two small illustrations in one corner or part of the page, and as the story continues, new images that connect to the story are added on to the illustrations. At the end of each story you can almost see the tale in the pictures that make up the border. There is also one big picture at the end of each story that shows a scene in the tale. The pictures are beautiful, so thought out, and I really liked seeing the story show through them.

If you are a fan of fantasy, fairy tales, or even just someone looking for fascinating tales to read, I would definitely recommend this book. Not only is the writing magical and detailed, but the world, characters, and illustrations are so well-developed and seem to fit together wonderfully. However, be warned: in this collection of tales the faint may not always be as they seem, and the real villains may have a story of their own.

– Mia T.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Sarah Tolcser’s first novel, Song of the Current, was much different from what I expected when first picking up the book—though not in a bad way. This exciting story gives a taste of everything: action, adventure, romance, magic, and sacrifice—all centered around one girl who sails with her father on a wherry in the Riverlands.

When she was a child, Caroline “Caro” Oresteia was told her destiny: Like the many Oresteias who came before her, she would be favored by the god in the river. The river god speaks to sailors indirectly and keeps them safe on their journeys. Caro awaits the day when he will begin speak to her, just as he speaks to her father.

When she is seventeen, Caro still has not heard from the river god, and instead finds herself the captain of her father’s beloved wherry, Cormorant, transporting a strange package in order to free her father from imprisonment. When she agrees to carry the strange cargo, Caro has no idea of what her involvement is going to entail. However, it does not take her long to realize that the contents of the strange crate she is carrying is a danger to her and her wherry.

With the Black Dogs (a group of merciless pirates who are searching for the strange crate) looming threateningly in Caro’s wake, the unexpected arrival of a bothersome boy who seems to have something to hide, and someone attempting to force their way into the seat of the Emparch of Akhaia, a whirlpool of dangers, betrayals, and secrecy forms, pulling Caro in.

Through all of this, the god of the river remains silent in Caro’s ears. She begins to wonder if her true destiny is not what she had been told so many years ago.

Although this story is set in a fictional world, I liked how Sarah Tolcser used just enough factual elements such as sailing terms to maintain the believability of the world, and I also liked her use of strong characterization. Caro is a bold, determined character, and it is inspiring how she does not care about someone’s title—she bases her view of them on what she sees them do.

As a reader, I love big fantasy series, but I also like finding new ones that I have not heard much about. The Song of the Current would be a great read for anyone looking for another fictional world to explore. From shadowmen and sword fights to politics and philosophy, this book covers an amazing spectrum. If you ever read this book, I hope your journey through the Riverlands is just as exciting and full of adventure as Caro’s was. Though, of course, much, much safer.

– Mia T.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library