I first reviewed Australian author, A.L. Tait’s books back in 2020 with THE BOOK OF SECRETS and THE BOOK OF ANSWERS. She returns with a new series that offers more rich character depiction and amazing world building. The main characters are 15 and 16 years old so I’d recommend this for 6th – 10th graders (ages 12-16).
The first book is THE FIRE STAR. It all begins with this interesting first line sure to make one read on:
Of all things I’d imagined might stop us from reaching Rennart Castle by nightfall, goats had not even made the top fifty.
Maven is the one speaking here. Not only does she have to deal with the goats but also the squire boy (Reeve) haplessly trying to corral the animals. This first meeting leads to the duo running into each other again. Maven serves as a maid to Casssandra who is engaged to Sir Garrick and his new squire happens to be young Reeve.
This series is done in alternating viewpoints. Although that isn’t uncommon in books for tweens and teens, here it is done with Maven’s first person narration while Reeve’s is third person. It takes a little getting used to, but the more I read the more I liked this technique.
Maven is a great female character with determination, wit, and likeability. She is a servant girl in a Medieval fantasy world where girls and women served while their intellect was ignored. Independence is something she wants and the secret Beech Circle is where she meets other girls and women who are smart and there to provide help when needed. These are women who “…choose to ask questions.”
Reeve is an aspiring knight who faints at the sight of blood. He is smart and capable but prefers to stay unnoticed. This makes him at first a rather odd match to Maven’s character, but together they thrive, helping each other conquer villains and solving the mystery.
As these two teens’ friendship grows so does their focus on solving the mystery of a missing gem (The Fire Star) and uncovering who killed an innocent man. They only have three days to do so. The emphasis is on friendship rather than romance which is not usually the case in a full blown YA book. That’s why I see this as upper MG.
The plot points in this first story are wrapped up nicely. The Fire Star is set in a world unlike the present but with many similarities. Perfect for good readers who love a great mystery.
Next up is the Wolf’s Howl. You can read this one without having read The Fire Star, but you’ll get a fuller understanding of the growing friendship by reading them in order. Once again there is no love interest between the two—just a bond of helping each other.
Set a week later, the title comes not from any wolves but from the howling wind blowing across the landscape around Glawn Castle. What a great setting as Maven and Reeve are thrown into another mystery involving a missing cook. A mystery full of questionable political alliances and secrets packed with danger and page turning surprises.
The appeal of Maven only grows. She’s witty with a powerful voice in a world where women have no voice. She relies on the ever amusing Reeve for support along with the Beech Circle. If they fail it will mean the end of their alliance with the lord and lady. A sentence of treason could also follow.
Another satisfactory conclusion will have you longing for a book 3.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Her latest novel THE WOLF’S HOWL (A Maven & Reeve Mystery #2) is out now in Australia and the USA!
A multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with many years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing, Allison is co-host of the top-rating Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast.
She lives on the south coast of NSW (Australia) with her family.
Coming up next week is another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY! It’s here I share highlights from other individuals blogging about middle grade books. Many of the posts will have reviews, interviews, and tips on writing. Take a look at PAST MMGM POSTS.
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