May 26, 2022

REVIEW Melting Stones (Circle Reforged #2) by Tamora Pierce

Melting Stones (Circle Reforged #2) by Tamora Pierce
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Format: Paperback (Personal Library) + Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: Scholastic 

I’ve been on a Tamora Pierce re-reading spree, so naturally, Melting Stones was on the list of books to re-read. It’s the only book set in Ms. Pierce’s Emelan universe that doesn’t feature one of the main quartet, so it has an entirely different feel and perspective. As a result, it was very refreshing and amusing to jump back into this world and see what’s taking place from Evy’s point of view instead of Tris, Sandry, Daja, or Briar’s. It was overall a very entertaining re-read, and I’m looking forward to finishing the other books.

I’ve been enjoying all of the Full Cast audiobook productions for the Emelan books, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this book was specifically written for a full audio cast. A super cool random fact, courtesy of Wikipedia! As with the other books, it was an excellent performance by all of the voice actors. Now that I’ve listened to a couple of them, I’m more used to having multiple narrators instead of just one. 

With this book, I think that Rosethorn has made the most book appearances of any character in the Emelan universe. She helped to raise Briar, and now she’s helping to raise Evy. One of the biggest challenges they overcome is dealing with Evy’s PTSD. She (understandably) is wary when it comes to trusting people other than Briar and Rosethorn. However, her mannerisms and behavior extend to the point of hostility, and where she simply does not care about the fate of anyone else. Rosethorn is gentle with her triggers, but also quick to point out where she’s being irrational. For example, Rosethorn does not discipline Evy when one of the dedicates startles her awake (after being told not to). However, she does remind Evy that life is more rewarding as a “builder” and not a “destroyer”. Evy comes to realize that by the end of the book, and it was quite rewarding for me as a reader to witness her journey. 

As a reminder, Evy’s point of view is very different from that of any of the main foursome. Don’t go into this a repeat of one of the original Circle of Magic books or the Circle opens books. That’s not to say it’s not a good book (it’s a fantastic read - I’ve rated all of Tamora Pierce’s books four stars or higher) but I don’t want people to go into this book with unrealistic expectations and then leave disappointed. 

I also want to note that while it’s technically “standalone”, I would not recommend reading this book without reading the other previous books based on Evy, Briar, and Rosethorn. If you did, you would likely feel like you were missing things and multiple references would not make sense. 

I can’t say enough good things about Ms. Pierce’s books. She’s one of my favorite authors of all time (one of my very few “auto-buy” authors) - I imagine I’ll be singing the praises of her books to anyone who asks for a long time to come. If you love diverse stories complete with amazing plots, fantastic characters, and absolutely fantastic worldbuilding, then pick up one of her series today. Middle-grade readers should start with the Circle Opens series, while readers at the young adult level would most likely prefer the series that are set in Tortall (Song of the Lioness, Protector of the Small, and Daughter of the Lioness are some of the best in my opinion).

About the Author

TAMORA PIERCE is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over eighteen novels set in the fantasy realm of Tortall. She first captured the imagination of readers with her debut novel, Alanna: The First Adventure. Since then, her bestselling and award-winning titles have pushed the boundaries of fantasy and young adult novels to introduce readers to a rich world populated by strong, believable heroines. Her books have been translated into many languages, and some are available on audio from Listening Library and Full Cast Audio. In 2013, she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Pierce lives in Syracuse, New York, with her husband, Tim, and their cats, birds, and occasional rescued wildlife. 

May 25, 2022

REVIEW Dragon Mountain (The Dragon Realm Series Book 1) by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Dragon Mountain (The Dragon Realm Series Book 1) by Katie and Kevin Tsang
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Format: eBook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: Union Square Kids 

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Katie and Kevin Tsang’s Dragon Mountain is such a fun book, and I’m so happy that I was introduced to it by Bookstagram. Percy Jackson and the Olympians meet How to Train Your Dragon in this cinematic, action-packed middle-grade fantasy read. It’s so fun and imaginative that I found myself hooked from the very first page.

From the first chapter, readers are introduced to Billy, who we later follow to a summer camp his parents are sending him to in middle-of-nowhere China. Once there, he makes some new friends and is introduced to the legend of Dragon Mountain. As many say, every legend has a kernel of truth at its center, and Billy and his friends are about to find themselves smack dab in the middle of one. Will they be able to unite with their new dragon friends, and save the world from the Dragon of Death before it's too late? You’ll have to read the book to find out! (But, seriously. Read the book. It will be worth it, I swear). 

Dragons make any story better, and this one was no exception. If I bonded with one of the dragons in the book, it would most likely be Buttons or Spark. Those two were my favorite (Tank and Xing are probably a little too serious for my tastes). Overall, all the human characters and the dragon characters were amazing! I loved how the children were all from different backgrounds and cultures, but they were made stronger together. They all had unique personalities that worked well together and made the story better.  

The worldbuilding was also great in this book. I never had any issues envisioning the setting or what was going on. I’d love to see the dragon’s hoards and visit the Dragon Realm too (when it's not being ruled by an evil power-hungry dragon, of course). There were some questions that I had while reading, but I think those were ultimately setups for answers the authors will provide in later books in the series. 

Altogether, Dragon Mountain was an entertaining and humorous read that I will happily recommend to all the young readers in my life. If you’re a fan of diverse fantasy stories (and anything referencing dragons) you should definitely pick up this book. I’m off to go find myself a copy of the next book in the series, Dragon Legend. Wish me luck!

About the Authors

Hi! We are Katie and Kevin Tsang - children’s authors, parents, and adventurers. Katie is originally from California and also writes YA as Katherine Webber. Kevin was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia.

We met many moons ago studying abroad in a magical place called Hong Kong. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world together, live on three different continents, and we even got married. We now live in London with our baby daughter. We spend our days making up stories and thinking about what we want for dinner.