Dennard, Susan. The Luminaries. Tor Teen, 2022. 978-1-250-19404-6. $18.99. 304 p. Grades 9-12.
Hemlock Falls is not your average town. It’s surrounded by a forest inhabited by nightmares and monsters. The town is kept safe by The Luminaries, an ancient order of hunters who protect the residents each night. Families that make up the Luminaries take turns hunting throughout the days of the week. Winnie Wednesday, of the Wednesday clan, is preparing to participate in the hunter trials. Although she is turning 16 and is eligible to participate, her family has been shunned by the Luminaries ever since her father was accused of being a witch and betraying them all. This is the only way that Winnie can restore her family back to the order, so Winnie must try, no matter how great the danger. Reluctantly, she accepts help from her former best friend, Jay Friday, one of the best hunters in the Luminaries. As Winnie trains for her hunter trials, she continues to learn about the nightmares lurking outside of her town, and when she encounters a new kind of monster, she’ll have to convince the order that exiled her family that this new danger may be a threat to them all.
THOUGHTS: The Luminaries, the first of a new series, has a little bit of everything for readers. In this fantasy world, teenage hunters typically choose their roles rather than have it forced upon them but although they live in a town surrounded by monsters, their lives are quite ordinary. Action, adventure, and mystery await in this new, contemporary fantasy, and it’s the perfect choice for readers looking to try something new.
Kagawa, Julie. Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl. Disney-Hyperion, 2022. 978-1-368-06819-2. Grades 4-7.
Shinji, a 13-year-old orphan, is being raised by his globe-trotting Aunt Yui, who is constantly searching for unique artisan products for her store, Lost River Outfitters. While aimlessly wandering a marketplace in a corner of Africa along the Zambezi River, he comes across an unusual, snake-like statue that calls to him. Literally. Shinji no sooner takes possession of the Coatl idol when trouble starts. Armed men attempt to force the Mezoamerican figurine from Shinji, eventually kidnapping the boy and taking him to the headquarters of the Hightower Corporation. There, Shinji makes an ally in Lucy, a computer prodigy his own age and they begin to unravel the mystery of the Coatl, which has turned into a tattoo on Shinji’s arm. They plot their escape and form an alliance with the mysterious Society of Adventurers and Explorers to complete the mission of the Coatl before it drains Shinji’s life away. This action-packed middle grade adventure holds its own in the increasingly crowded field of mythology-based series. Shinji is a relatable character, who wise-cracks at the wrong time and frequently allows his frustration to get the better of him. Lucy provides a cool foil to Shinji, with secrets of her own that propel the story forward. Kagawa deftly spreads suspicion among all the adults, leaving Shinji and the reader not sure who to trust, keeping up the suspense until the end of the book. While the story does have a Disney tie-in, it is minimally invasive. The characters are widely diverse, with Shinji being Asian; Lucy white; and the members of the Society of Adventurers and Explorers cueing as Black, Indian and white, and include a wheelchair Explorer who flies drones.
THOUGHTS: If you don’t object to the minor Disney plug woven into the story, this is a solid choice for a magic-based action/adventure story. Not as heavily immersed in mythology as Percy Jackson, it should entertain readers just looking for a fun story that is hard to put down. Sequels would seem to be forthcoming.
Abdo, Kenny. Guidebooks to the Unexplained. Abdo Zoom. 2020. $19.95 each. $119.70 for set of 6. Gr. 2-5
Area 51. 978-1-532-12933-9. Cryptids.978-1-532-12934-6. Ghosts. 978-1-532-12937-7. Lost Lands. 978-1-532-12935-3. Men in Black. 978-1-532-12936-0. Witches. 978-1-532-12938-4.
Have you ever wondered about the mysterious places and creatures that captivate our media and folklore? Have you ever wondered if these places are actually real or if there is a creature out in the forest or mountain, lurking about? If so, then this series is for you. Guidebooks to the Unexplained takes you on a brief adventure, looking at some of the most famous places and creatures you hear about in stories and movies, providing a information and even more wonderings and questions than you started with!
THOUGHTS: This is a beginner series to these questions that many readers have. This series would be a great way to begin research on a topic!