Tag Archives: middle grade

Prince Ewald the Brave

Book Review: Prince Ewald the Brave, by Dylan Madeley

I accepted a copy of Prince Ewald the Brave, by Dylan Madleley, from the author for review.

prince ewald the brave cover

Meet the Kenderleys, the wealthiest and most powerful family in the world.

The youngest, Prince Bonifaz, takes his lessons and trusts no one. The middle child, Princess Isabel, sneaks away to a secret regency of her own making. Their mother, Queen Dulcibella, watches out for her children just as readily as she watches over them. Their father, King Jonnecht, is a capricious tyrant who hopes to control his family as strictly as he does the largest empire, and his violent rage threatens all under his rule.

Then there’s Prince Ewald, eldest and heir to the throne. No one is more aware of what threat his father poses to everyone. No one has better legal standing to do anything about it. How can he save everyone he loves while upholding his mother’s kind values? He must learn the lessons required to be the best regent, choose allies wisely and earn their trust, and enact a thoughtful and detailed plan.

And even if he succeeds in all that, can one who draws the line and conducts a plan with honour defeat one whose rage, selfishness, and deceit know no bounds?

Can Prince Ewald stop his own father?

my review

I want to start with a discussion that might not be relevant for review, but I think is to readers. I accepted this book for review from the author with the understanding that, despite it’s cover, it is an adult book. (I don’t accept YA titles for review.) The author’s initial email to me said, “It’s intended for an Adult audience, but should be safe reading for 16+ up.”

I sat on that request for a while before agreeing to review the book. I was skeptical, and I said so to the author in my email response. In honesty, discovering if it truly was an adult book was part of what tipped the skeptical scales in favor of taking the author’s word for it and agreeing to read it. I couldn’t imagine it would be in any author’s best interest to mislead a reviewer about the content of the book they’re requesting a review of. That seems a recipe for a bad review.

I won’t contradict the author. As the author, he can place the book in any genre he chooses. However, if you asked my reader’s opinion, I’d tell you this is a LOWER YA or UPPER MG book. (Which I suppose, in fairness, is “safe reading for 16+ up.”) I took the book around to my family, spread throughout the house, and asked each, “Given this cover, knowing nothing more about this book, how old would you guess the intended audience is?” My husband said 14, which is what I would have guessed too. My 10yo said 14, and my 13 (almost 14yo) said 14-16. If the book is an adult book, as the author claimed, that cover is a liar. Rather, I think the cover is perfectly appropriate for the content of the book and the author passed me inaccurate information, purposefully or not.

I call it middle grade or young adult because, though the children’s ages aren’t actually stated, they feel like young teens at most. The book reduces what should be politically seismic events to a petty domestic matter, equates the two, essentially making home matters feel as all encompassing and important as international ones. I’m not trying to downplay domestic abuse, but the book uses it to support the vileness and ineptitude of the king in uber simplified ways. He hits his kid = he must be a bad man and therefore a bad king.

The king is cruel (and therefore evil) for the sake of cruelty. There is no depth to his character or notable motivation. Nothing he is shown to do is true grounds for removing a king. He’s mean and not a good leader, sure, but that’s not the same thing as being unfit to a degree that the machinery of bureaucracy would take the near miraculous step of actually changing tracts. Bureaucracy being a complication Madeley opted to leave out, further simplifying the plot for younger readers. The narrative style is un-elaborate and the dialogue stiflingly stilted in a manner I’d equate to ‘fantasy speak’ and feels unsophisticated (i.e. young). What’s more the whole last page or so wraps up with the language of fairy tales. This is a young adult or middle grade book, in my opinion.

And, authors, the need for the previous 450 words is why you’re honest with your reviewers about the genre of your book when seeking reviews. For those of you randomly picking up the book, without discourse with the author, trust the cover. It’s a good one and won’t steer you wrong. (Though I think there’s a similar but new version of the cover available on Amazon, that looks like it’s aged Ewald up a little. He looks about 13 on this cover, but might pass for a little older on the new one.)

two ewalds

As I didn’t set out to read a MG/YA book it’s hard for me to truly judge the book’s credit at that level. (Which is part of why I don’t accept lower YA/upper MG books for review. I don’t feel as confident in  my own assessments. So, here I’ve been put in an additional uncomfortable position.) As an adult, I found the whole thing scattered and dull. There is no true central character and more of the book is dedicated to military and political events than to the characters themselves. But without that character involvement, I was left reading about a series of military decisions for countries that I knew and cared little about. Random country goes to war, yawn.

However, if I was a 13yo reader, I probably wouldn’t have the same expectation. I would likely feel the father’s betrayals more strongly than an adult and be more able and willing to overlook that they and his political betrayals are not one and the same or interchangeable. All in all, for a young reader I think this could be a winner. For an adult, it’s readable, competently edited, etc, but there is little here to keep you interested.

prince ewald the brave

Review of The Beatrice McIlvaine Adventure Books 1&2, by Bruce McCandless III

I won a copy of Beatrice at Bay through Goodreads. And since it happens to be the second book in the series, the authors (Bruce and Carson MacCandles) were kind enough to send along book one, Beatrice and the Basilisk

I admit that I don’t usually bother reviewing children’s’ books here on the blog, even when I read them. But the Beatrice McIlvaine Adventures impressed me, the second one more than the first. So, I’m giving them a place on the blog, even if the reviews are brief.

Description of Beatrice and the Basilisk:

12-year-old Beatrice McIlvaine has a problem. It’s not sixth grade math. It doesn’t involve boys. This problem is bigger than that, and it has a nasty bite. As Beatrice steels herself to fight a threat to the precarious existence she leads with her single mother and a troubled little brother, she finds she has friends in unexpected places. A modern parable about love, family, and killing giant flying reptiles, Beatrice and the Basilisk is short (8,000 words) but not entirely sweet. And there’s a lesson in there somewhere–if you can see through the dismal night sky, and beyond those dangerous teeth…

Review:

As an adult, I had to look over the hows and whys of the story, but otherwise I enjoyed it. (I even got a little teary.) I fully expected my young one to enjoy it. And in fact, she later came back to tell me she’d read and enjoyed it too.


Description of Beatrice at Bay:

Beatrice at Bay is the second installment of the Beatrice McIlvaine Adventure Series, which follows the feisty, freckled, and somewhat telekinetic Texas high schooler Beatrice as she makes her way in a world full of increasingly sophisticated threats. The series started with Beatrice and the Basilisk, a modern-day fairy tale that resonated unexpectedly with readers young and old. While Beatrice was twelve then, she’s fifteen now, and facing different challenges: a potential step-father; her own immense but uncontrollable powers; the weird kids sitting the in the plumber’s van outside; and—possibly most importantly—the end of the world. Can Beatrice channel her troubling destructive energies in the service of something greater than herself? Who can she trust at a beautiful school for gifted kids that isn’t quite what it seems? And what’s up with this Lester White Bull kid creeping on her Instagram feed?

Review:

I have to admit to being very surprised by this book. Whenever I get my hands on a random book I plan to pass to my children, I always give them a quick read just to be sure they’re age and message appropriate. I don’t usually expect to enjoy them much. I’m a 43 yo woman, after all, and this is an upper middle-grade book. (The protagonist is 15.) This time I did though. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, diversity, and plotline. However, I have to admit given the current pandemic it was a little too on the nose! I hope there will be more Beatrice adventures in the future.

queen moxie

Review of Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense

I won a signed paperback of Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense, through Library Thing.

Description from Goodreads:

Moxie’s adventures continue. This time she’s the Queen and her reign is threatened. A tribe of savage Picts have migrated from up north and settled outside her borders. Then there are the forests fairies. Their king, Oberon, claims a vast chunk of her land. In addition, Moxie’s ten-year-old daughter, decides she doesn’t want to be the next Queen. How’s a Queen to deal with all these problems? 

Review:

This is utterly ridiculous and anachronistic, but endearingly so. Think Terry Pratchett.

Unfortunately, it really suffers from amateurish writing and not knowing what it wants to be. The writing feels suited for lower YA audiences, maybe even Middle Grade. But the book includes cursing and references to sex, which I have no problem with in principle but have no place in a Middle Grade book. I suspect that the issue is the author wanted to write and adult book, but only has the skill to craft middle grade complexity in his stories.

Plus, I sense that Quense meant for the book to be gender positive, but it really wasn’t. There are several problematic gender norms that go largely un-critiqued. Pedro and his insistence that he can control Kate simply by virtue of being a man. (None of which contributed to the plot in any way.) And the fact that I don’t think Moxie makes a single decision in the whole book that she doesn’t ask a man about first.

The whole thing was just too clumbsy for me to enjoy. Honestly, I skimmed the last 50 or so pages trying to force myself to finish it. And I wouldn’t even have done that if it didn’t fulfill the Q for my yearly alphabet soup challenge (where I read an author for each letter of the alphabet).