cover image Secret of the Shadow Beasts

Secret of the Shadow Beasts

Diane Magras. Dial, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2932-7

As one of the increasingly few children immune to the lethal venom of the Brannland-terrorizing Umbrae—also called Shadow Beasts for their ability to transform into shadow—Nora Kemp should have started training as a knight of the MacAskill Orders at age seven, but her father refused. Now 12, the traditional age of knighthood, cued-white Nora lives with her mother in a farmhouse following her father’s Beast-related death. When she nearly loses her mother to an attack of massive spiderlike Umbrae, Nora at long last contacts the Orders, trading a relatively straightforward adolescence for a young life of slaying and fighting. Despite her lack of training or experience, Nora’s unprecedented skill at battling the Umbrae swiftly earns her a place in the top-rated Order of the Hawk. Out in the field, Nora quickly bonds with her newfound companions, and proves adept at wielding a MacAskill Iron axe, but a revelation about the Umbrae’s intense recent spawning ups the stakes. Though the plotting and worldbuilding at times feel nebulous, Magras’s (The Mad Wolf’s Daughter) incidentally inclusive cast and its strengthening camaraderie make for an emotionally rich, character-driven contemporary fantasy. Ages 9–12. Agent: Adriann Ranta Zurhellen, Folio Literary. (June)