Series: Shadow Magic #2
Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 11th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Some MG violence, One quick kiss)
In Book 2 of a three book series, things are dire for the inhabitants of Castle Gloom and the surrounding villages. The undead are leaving their graves in droves, a troll army is on the march from the north, and people are mysteriously disappearing from their homes. The people of Gehenna are blaming their misfortunes on Lilith Shadow, their young queen. They believe she has cursed them by using magic, a practice forbidden to women. With her trusty executioner among the missing and her blackguard soldiers busy battling trolls, it is up to Lily and her friend Thorn to root out the real cause of all the trouble. Their search will uncover ugly truths and eventually lead to a nightmarish confrontation with nothing less than the rulership of the realm at stake. Zombies, ghosts, trolls, dream weavers, a black-hearted villain, and a giant hero bat are only some of the imaginative delights that await readers who relish a soaring adventure combined with a hair-raising mystery.
Dream Magic is great fun and highly imaginative. I wish I’d read the first book on the series, though—when the book was offered to me, I was told it was the second in a series, but that it was a standalone, and that was sort of true, in the sense that it had it’s own story arc, but it was definitely a continuation of the first book. On the positive side, it wasn’t confusing at all—Khan did a great job of “reminding” readers what had already happened, but I was missing a connection to those events (and the characters that went with them). Still, considering that, it’s actually amazing that I enjoyed the book so much—which is a testament to Khan’s storytelling skills.
What Fed My Addiction:
- Complete story arc. I mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating because I think this is a fantastic feature in a MG series. Though the story very obviously is a continuation of book one, it has its own complete story arc. There is a new villain introduced and that villain’s story is resolved (with room for the possibility of continuation) by the end. If other MG readers are anything like my kids (especially my son when he was that age), this is key. My son as a middle schooler had a short attention span. He might pick up a series and start reading it again completely out of order. He also might binge-read a whole series or wait six months to read the next books. Series like these where each book can stand alone are (but are still very much a cohesive series) are perfect for him!
- Darkly different. I loved the supernatural creatures in this story and the way that Khan balances making them mostly harmless but still keeping them spooky. For instance, the zombies don’t go around attacking people for their brains—but they apparently do like to eat them. Plus, they’re decomposing and keep needing to be sewn back together. And they’re not great communicators (their speech sounds pretty much like moans and groans). I thought that this was a fun way to play with these supernatural characters and keep them very creepy without being truly horrific. There were lots of creatures too—ghosts, zombies, trolls (who were sort of seen as the enemy, but there were a few allies as well). And Lily’s obvious love for all her “people” was charming.
- The consequences of magic. One of the biggest themes of this book is Lily trying to learn how to control her magic and the consequences when she uses it. The people in her kingdom believe that a female who uses magic is a curse, so at first she has to hide her ability—but it soon becomes necessary to show the world. Every time Lily uses her magic, though (especially in her relative ignorance), it drains her and, even more importantly, it changes her. Since she doesn’t know what all the consequences will be, she has to be very careful. Of course, caution isn’t always possible when you’re being attacked by supernatural creatures!!
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Little bit of a slow start. The beginning of the book felt a teensy bit slow to me, but I think the main reason for that was because it was establishing where these characters had ended up and the state of the kingdom after the last book. It was great to have that information, but since I wasn’t connected to those events or characters yet, it took me a little while to feel truly engaged. The action didn’t pick up until about a third of the way through the book when the first threat really showed up.
This was a fun, slightly dark (but not at all too dark) middle grade read. I highly recommend reading the first book instead of jumping in at this second installment. I waffled a little bit on my rating for this one between 3.5 and 4 stars but ended up landing on 4/5 stars because I’m fairly certain that if I had read the first book, I would have easily given it 4 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Take a look at Joshua Khan’s top ten addictions! I especially love imagining Khan going to his first Superman movie with the costume on under his clothes a la Clark Kent—very fun! And I’m jealous of his travels!
Of course, you can put chocolate twice, Joshua! What kind of a silly question is that?
About the Author
Writes a bit about goth princesses, outlaws and giant bats. And zombies.
Lives in London but would rather live in a castle and is a lot less scary in real life than his photo would suggest.