cover image Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston (Sir Callie #1)

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston (Sir Callie #1)

Esme Symes-Smith. Labyrinth Road, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-48577-4

Nonbinary 12-year-old Callie dreams of becoming a knight in service to the royal court of Helston. When their retired knight father—formerly champion to Helston’s king, who vanished years ago under mysterious circumstances—is recalled to help train the 12-year-old crown prince for an upcoming tournament and a future as ruler, Callie joins him. Helston’s court frowns upon anyone deviating from strict gender norms: magic-less knights are expected to fight, ladies to “sit still and be quiet and make pretty, useless things with their magic.” Confined to their chamber by the cruel Lord Chancellor Peran, Callie nonetheless continues to secretly train as a squire, soon befriending the nervous prince as well as Peran’s defiant daughter. Together, the trio, each of whom flout Helston’s gender norms, fight to be recognized for who they are in an increasingly oppressive system, all in the shadow of a looming war. In this uplifting debut, Symes-Smith skillfully crafts an emotionally rich adventure starring an intersectionally inclusive cast of courageous characters. With narrative undercurrents addressing identity, found family, and healing, there’s a lot to unpack and appreciate, all for the better, in this character-driven fantasy series starter. Ages 8–12. Agent: Megan Manzano, D4EO Literary. (Nov.)