cover image A Tale of Magic... (A Tale of Magic... #1)

A Tale of Magic... (A Tale of Magic... #1)

Chris Colfer. Little, Brown, $18.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-316-52347-9

In this entertaining fantasy series opener, billed as a prequel to Colfer’s Land of Stories series, a girl pursues her destiny, defying the rigid gender roles and draconian laws of a kingdom that has outlawed magic and forbidden women from reading. Diehard bibliophile Brystal Evergreen, 14, is disowned by her family after she manifests magical talents and is sentenced to a workhouse; shortly afterward, the enigmatic Madame Weatherberry rescues her to study at her newly established Academy of Magic, in an attempt to reverse public prejudice against benevolent magic users, whom she calls fairies to differentiate them from very real, very wicked, witches. At the Academy, Brystal learns to embrace her inner self, achieve her full potential, and reconcile the disparate parts of her identity. When a deadly conflict brewing in the north forces Madame Weatherberry to leave, it’s up to Brystal and her newfound school friends to harness their powers and save the day. With its focus on chosen family, accepting one’s true self, and changing public perception through normalization, it’s easy to spot Colfer’s gentle, if unsubtle, metaphors for marginalized experiences (“Someone’s existence is never a choice, or a fault, and it’s certainly not a crime”). Strong characters and an engaging story line make this a thoroughly satisfying adventure that can stand alone for Colfer newcomers. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]