Magician by Raymond Feist

Countless tales of the struggle between good and evil in Medieval times have been told. But it takes a true artisan to delve into not only fanciful creatures but other worlds as well. Raymond Feist does this masterfully.

This book is a classic in the realm of fantasy and adventure. It has been captivating readers for more than 30 years. After reading it, I understand its appeal. The author creates parallel universes that are enthralling. A rift opens in the Kingdom, and they are attacked by the Tsurani. The Tsurani have no metal in their world, however, they are rich with magicians. These magicians are powerful and wreak havoc wherever they go. There are also many Kingdom characters who are instrumental in the survival of their world. We watch as they grow and change throughout the course of the invasion transforming to meet each challenge. There is no lack of adventure.

Don’t be put off by the length of this book (841 pages!) It will draw you in and keep your attention as you live their story. Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of all the characters, but the resolution ties all the strings together at the end and makes it worthwhile.

I recommend this book if you are someone who enjoys fantasy, adventure and doesn’t mind conflict. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Also note, that this is the first in a series of many books that continue the Riftwar Saga.

-Elijah Y.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Do you believe in destiny? No matter what your answer is, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman will cause you to rethink it.

Full of adventure, fantasy, science-fiction and giant talking bears, The Golden Compass details the quest of a little girl named Lyra on a search for her best friend Roger. What she doesn’t know is that the fate of the world as she knows it rests in her hands.

 Throughout her journey to save her friend, Lyra receives help from a myriad of dynamic and likable characters, including a witch named Serefina, the pilot of a hot air balloon, and an armored bear, among others. She is also never without her daemon named Pantelimon, who serves as a companion and protector, and can change into the form of any animal he wants. Every person is born with one, though adult daemons do not change form.

Though the main character of the story is a little girl, it is far from a simple children’s book. The Golden Compass questions compelling topics about humanity, fate, and the possibility of alternate universes that would pique the interest of anyone with an inquisitive and imaginative mind. The book has been described by some as too controversial for the new ideas it presents. However, I believe it is important to educate oneself on the thoughts and ideas of others, even if one does not always agree with them.

All that said, the writing itself is descriptive and filled with detailed and immersive imagery illustrating each scene clearly and artfully. The characters are diverse, interesting and relatable, and if I could sit down and have lunch with all of them I would.

Each page of The Golden Compass was engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is different from any book I have read before and does not fall under one category. Pullman seamlessly combines fantasy, science-fiction, friendship and adventure all into one, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

-Charlotte H.

The Golden Compass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

This little book of five wizarding fables is a perfect way to re-immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter after reading the series. With writing from the brilliant Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and little facts about characters from the Harry Potter series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard could naturally belong on a book list underneath Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Following each story is a note by Albus Dumbledore, which provides a thoughtful and sometimes witty analysis of the story, a discussion of the wizarding world’s acceptance of it, and perhaps a humorous anecdote. Although Dumbledore’s notes are written academically, the evidence of his witty and brilliant character in his writing is exciting and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed reading Dumbledore’s note on The Fountain of Fair Fortune because it mentions Hagrid’s predecessor as professor of Care of Magical Creatures, Professor Kettleburn. Professor Kettleburn is briefly mentioned in the Harry Potter series, but in his note, Professor Dumbledore delves deeper into his character while telling a humorous story involving the Care of Magical Creatures teacher and students at Hogwarts.

Additional references to and historical information about characters from Harry Potter serve as a treat to those wanting an extra morsel of the wizarding world.

What I enjoy about this book are J.K. Rowling’s intricate and elegant illustrations of her (or Beedle’s) stories. I find it intriguing to see illustrations by the authors, as their depictions are most likely to be true to their vision.

Lastly, it’s fascinating how The Tales of Beedle the Bard not only a book of stories about the wizarding world but a book that actually exists in Harry Potter’s world, as it is first introduced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It almost appears like it was pulled from a Hogwarts bookshelf or a wizard or witch’s bedside table to be shared with the Muggle community.

Crafted with wit, magic, and a bit of the darkness you might find in a Grimm fairy-tale, these stories serve both as entertainment and as another taste of the wizarding world.

– Mia T.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Book Without Words by Avi

The Book Without Words by Avi is a strange, chaotic novella set in a medieval and gothic time period in an alternate universe.

An eccentric old man named Thorston has devoted his entire life to look for the two greatest secrets of life- the making of gold and immortality. Seconds away from a breakthrough, he keels over, dead. His servant, Sybil, and talking pet raven, Odo, decide that their only hope is to discover the two secrets and build a better life for themselves.

The ultimate theme of this book plays on human nature itself, as the two secrets themselves represent man’s greatest flaws- greed and the desire for immortality. 

This morally-charged storyline coupled with Avi’s odd, emotionless, and almost creepy narrating style makes for an intriguingly gruesome novella that turns the happy-go-lucky magic of youth into something curiously corrupted and cruel.

-Vaidehi B.

The Book Without Words by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, tells the story of a not-so-great Chosen One with a tendency to set things of fire – Simon Snow, and his vampire roommate/nemesis – Baz Pitch. As secrets from the past are brought to light once again, Simon and Baz are forced to work together to defeat the evil Humdrum that has been plaguing the magical society in England. Filled with monsters, magic, and romance, Carry On is a thrilling adventure with twists and turns and a fast-paced plot that leaves readers hungry for more.

This book, in a nutshell, is Harry Potter crossed with Twilight, with Star Wars references. And not in a subtle way. Despite it being remarkably similar to these three franchises, Carry On, in my opinion, is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s fast-paced plot caused me to speed through the book in only a few hours. As soon as I finished it, I immediately opened it back to the first page and started all over again.

Carry On contains many well written and lovable characters. While they bear many similarities to characters from Harry Potter (Simon to Harry, Penny to Hermione, Mage to Dumbledore, and Baz to Draco), they are each distinct and unique characters, with fun and likable personalities that set them apart from the characters they are based on.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the LGBT+ representation. Both of the main characters are part of the LGBT+ community as well as some of the side characters, something that is not seen often in this genre.

There were some swear words, just a warning, but I felt that they helped make the dialogue feel more real and authentic. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love fantasy, if you love romance, if you love YA, then pick up this book immediately – you won’t regret it!

-Lauren R.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in certain countries, is the first book in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The book is about a young boy named Harry, who lives with his abusive relatives, but one day, a giant named Hagrid arrives, telling Harry that he’s a wizard an celebrity. Hagrid introduces Harry to the magical world and other magical sites in London, like Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron.

At Hogwarts, a school for magic, Harry befriends Ron, his first friend ever, and the book-worm Hermione. As Harry is beginning to adapt to his new magical life, he becomes stuck in the middle of a mystery: a magical object has been transferred to Hogwarts’s dungeons, and Harry and his friends believe that someone is trying to steal it. As the school year progresses, Harry struggles to deal with his past, and he his friends face countless of challenges as they try to solve the mystery; they fight a troll, see a mysterious figure in the woods, and play chess on a gargantuan, animated chess board.

In conclusion, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a great beginning for the Harry Potter series. The book is an interesting novel to read, and its sequels only get better.

-Josh N. 

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

‘In the forest primeval, a school for good and evil, two towers like twin heads, one for the pure, one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is, through a fairy tale’

These are the opening words of Soman Chainani’s first book in the School for Good and Evil series, also known as SGE to many fans. The first book, which is called The School For Good and Evil, has 488 pages, and can be found in the children’s section of the library.

This is one of my favorite books, and it holds deep meaning for me. When I first met my pen pal, this was her present to me. I have cherished this book and series, because it is a reminder of her, no matter how far apart we live.

We begin our tale in a small town. We meet Sophie, the epitome of a pretty pink princess. While she goes about her daily routines, including rigorous skin care, and primping and preening, we find out that there are kidnappings in this town, every year.

The villagers of this town have come to the conclusion that there is a ‘Schoolmaster’, kidnapping two children every year. At first, it seems as though there is no pattern to this kidnapping. Some years, two girls. Others, two boys. Sometimes, one of each. But finally, the villagers make the connection. One child is pure and good. The other is wicked and ‘evil’. The adults in the town didn’t know what to make of this. But, the children did. They found their old schoolmates in the pages of their favorite stories. These kidnapped children were becoming the heroes and villains of fairytales. And they were kidnapped to go train for fairytales at the Schools of Good and Evil

We find out that Sophie is pining to be kidnapped, to go to the school of Good. We also find that Agatha, her ‘friend’, is the perfect candidate to be kidnapped alongside Sophie, and attend the school of Evil.

Well, the hopes of Sophie and the assumptions of the villagers were correct. Agatha and Sophie were kidnapped by the Schoolmaster. But, as they are dropped off at the School for Good and Evil, some things did not go according to plan.

Agatha was dropped at the School for Good, and Sophie was dropped at the School for Evil.

Well, I won’t spoil anymore. I highly suggest checking this out at the library. Happy reads!

-Sophia D.

The School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani is available to download for free from Overdrive.

Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann

The last book I finished before my winter break was Dragon Bones, part of the The Unwanteds Quest Series written by Lisa McMann. The story follows two young twins, Thisbe and Fifer. Thisbe has been captured by the evil Reviner and must be rescued. The story follows both girls, switching perspectives and showing the reader the struggles of both girls.

The climax of the story is when Fifer gathers a group of her friends, who try to find and rescue Thisbe. Everything is going as planned until the gang encounters the Reviner. Alex, Fifer’s brother and lead wizard, starts to fight the Reviner but is quickly overrun. Eventually, Alex is killed and because he is the lead wizard, once he is gone, all of the magic the group used no longer works. Without their magic, Fifer’s group loses all their fighting ability. They quickly lose their confidence and are forced to retreat, leaving Thisbe behind. Little do they know, Thisbe and a friend of hers that she met while captive, had already escaped and are trying to survive until help arrives.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. I like how the author switched perspectives between the two twins, so you could see what was going on in each of their lives. The ending was cliche and expected, but that was the only problem I had with the book. I would rate this book a strong eight out of ten and would recommend the story to middle schoolers.

-Daniel C.

Dragon Bones and the rest of the Unwateds Quests series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

The death of Harry Potter’s godfather, Sirius Black, has made Harry more grown up than ever before. Now he feels that he has to put an end to Voldemort’s reign of terror, even if it kills him. Dumbledore picks Harry up before the end of summer to go on a mystery errand. The errand is to get Horace Slughorn to teach again at Hogwarts. Back at Hogwarts for Harry’s sixth year, he is extremely excited. He is now the Quidditch team captain. However, Harry also finds out and is gloomy that Professor Snape has achieved his longtime goal of being the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry has also started taking private lessons with Dumbledore to learn as much about Voldemort as he can. Hopefully this information will help if Harry ever comes face to face with Voldemort. Early on in Harry’s Potions class he acquires a mysterious book that used to be the Half Blood Prince’s. The book tells Harry everything he needs to know about potions. Harry’s sudden knowledge amazes everyone. He also grows a suspicion that Draco Malfoy has replaced his father as the leader of the Death Eaters. Harry, throughout the year, keeps a close eye on Draco just in case. Ron and Hermione see this idea as a far stretch, but Harry feels like something has to be happening with Draco frequently leaving school grounds. As the year continues, Dumbledore tells Harry that he may be able to go on a special mission to destroy a horcrux. A horcrux is an item that contains a part of Voldemort’s soul. Destroying them makes Voldemort weaker. When Harry and Voldemort leave on their mission to destroy the horcrux, Draco sneaks Death Eaters into the school, and a battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters takes place. Harry and Dumbledore return after getting the horcrux, but they are trapped on the Astronomy Tower. On the Tower, Draco disarms Dumbledore and Professor Snape kills him. Dumbledore’s death had a massive impact on Harry, but it helped him to see what he had to do.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

In the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry knows that he will soon have to battle Voldemort. Now that Dumbledore is dead Harry knows what he has to do to defeat Voldemort. He goes to find and destroy the horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. The journey is tough and eventually Ron and Harry get into a fight and Ron decides to go home. Devastated, Harry and Hermione visit Godric’s Hollow to try and find a horcrux. They come way too close to being caught by Voldemort. A few weeks later Ron decides to rejoin the quest to find the horcruxes. His timing couldn’t have been better as he arrives just in time to save Harry’s life. They find another horcrux and destroy it with Gryffindor’s sword. After destroying the horcrux, they learn about three items known as the Deathly Hallows. If a person has all three, that person becomes a master of death. Harry realizes that he must find all three in order to stop Voldemort. As Harry’s journey continues he realizes that he is the last horcrux. This means that Harry must give up his life in order to destroy Voldemort once and for all. Harry meets with Voldemort in the woods and Voldemort kills Harry. Harry then sees what appears to be King’s Cross Station but all white. He can also see Dumbledore. Dumbledore gives Harry the choice of going back to the living world to defeat Voldemort or moving on. Harry knows what he must do so he returns to the world. Voldemort is shocked to see Harry alive and tries killing him again, but this time with all horcruxes destroyed, Voldemort is too weak and he is defeated by Harry Potter.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive