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The witch, the sword, and the cursed knights
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Publishers Weekly Review
Camelot has fallen and the world is divided into the Twenty-Five and a Half Realms, magical and nonmagical, in Rogers's quirky fantasy debut. In one realm, olive-skinned Ellie Bettlebump, 12, who maintains an extensive toad collection, yearns to be accepted into the Fairy Godmother Academy and attend society events such as her stepsister's wedding --both unlikely given that she has witch's "contaminated, malevolent magic" in addition to fairy magic. In another realm--Boulder Falls, Wis.--pale-skinned Caedmon Tuggle grieves over the inexplicable death of his best friend, Jimmy. Everything changes for the two youths, and the book gains considerable narrative steam, when they're each drafted as Knights of the Round Table, leaving home far behind. In third-person chapters that alternate between the protagonists' perspectives, it's revealed that a curse is draining the Knights of their power--and will continue if Ellie and Caedmon can't solve the mystery of its origins. The two leads aren't consistently engaging (Caedmon sometimes comes off as maudlin, while Ellie's emotional age ranges from child to adult), but they're surrounded with a solid core of supporting characters: a close-knit friend group (characters read as white), a kindly mentor, and a Maleficent-worthy antagonist. Rogers deftly weaves Arthurian legend around universal concerns of the target audience, and the ending is both satisfying and sequel-ready. Ages 8--12. Agent: Katelyn Uplinger, D4EO Literary. (Feb.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4--8--Ellie and Caedmon do not expect to be Knights of the Round Table, let alone friends who are destined to save their separate worlds. Ellie, from the Tragevelia Realm, wants nothing more than to get accepted into the Fairy Godmother Academy; however, she harbors a secret that could cause the end of all her hopes and dreams. Caedmon, living in Wisconsin, cannot come to grips with the death of his best friend. The two have nothing in common, except that they both receive an invitation to be a Knight of the Round Table. Their ensuing adventure proves that they need each other in order to survive the formidable tests they encounter. Meeting new friends from across the realms, they push themselves to their limits as they struggle to free their worlds of a witches' curse meant to doom all of humanity. Told by Madame Mystérieuse using the alternate perspectives of Ellie and Caedmon, along with humorous and often sarcastic comments in footnotes, this title is sure to engage readers with its heterogeneous cast of characters and humor. Rogers's creativity in constructing the multiple-realm setting is outstanding, including minute details that keep its audience riveted. Readers will sympathize with Ellie in her futile attempts to please her mother, and Caedmon's heartache in losing a loved one. Information at the beginning of the title will help readers define each realm of the world. Fans of Harry Potter's magical world and its characters will enjoy this fantasy title. VERDICT A kinetic and novel fairy tale with themes of friendship and perseverance that will engage fans of Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon.--Elena Schuck
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