Middle-Grade Mini-Reviews: Fantasy and Mystery!

It’s time today for a set of mini-reviews—this time middle-grade ones! I decided to do these this year as a way of making sure that I read my books for the Let Us Read Middle Grade challenge. I’ve got three reviews today—two of them are from a few months back but I wanted to share them nonetheless. So let’s get into them.

The Stella Montgomery Intrigue series by Judith Rossell

Get ready for this, because I am completely in love with this series. I read the first one—Withering-by-Sea back in 2019 and instantly became obsessed with it. But because it’s me and I’m the literal worst at finishing series, I didn’t read the other two until February this year. But hey, I did it! I even reread the first one and honestly, that was the best idea I’ve ever had. This series has everything—it has intrigue, it has Stella Montgomery. Okay, I’m joking with that one but it really does have intrigue, humour and stunning illustrations done by Rossell herself, but also some fantasy elements and a historical aspect too. It also features many, many cats and a number of other creatures. This just feels like a culmination of some many different wonderful books—it feels like A Series of Unfortunate Events meets Nancy Drew meets The Spiderwick Chronicles meets A Secret Garden meets A Little Princess meets Pages & Co. Seriously, there’s got to be something in that mix that makes you kind of interested to give it a chance, right? On top of everything, this is Australian middle-grade and we all know that Aussie middle-grade is the best kind of middle-grade. I don’t make the rules.

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

I bought this one back in January after having been a HUGE fan of the movie. Honestly, the movie was just one of those ones that made me extremely happy, you know? I think it definitely has potential to be one of my comfort movies. Why am I talking about the movie so much in a review of the book? Well, I wish this book had been the movie. The same very basic idea is there—the sister of the Holmes’ brothers, a young Marquess that goes missing etc. Things happen in a pretty different way though and I found myself thinking that I enjoyed how the movie did things a little better. On top of that, Enola lacked something in this book. It’s no secret that Millie Bobby Brown is a talented actress, but she really gives Enola a personality and a charm to her that I don’t think is in here. The Enola in the movies knows that she’s smart and yes, maybe she’s a little smug about it at times but it’s what makes her character development so interesting. I didn’t feel the same way about the Enola in here. This is, of course, only the first book in the series and techniques between film and books are extremely different, but I was just a little disappointed. So when it comes to this one, I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the books at all but I will definitely be watching any sequels that get made. Crossing fingers that Netflix might announce one soon!

Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann

I bought Cinders and Sparrows on a complete whim. I loved the title, I thought the cover was gorgeous and I’m a sucker for a good witch book. I’m really glad that I did take the chance on it because it was a really lovely book. One of the reasons I enjoy middle-grade so much is that they’re usually quick reads for me and they usually brighten my mood as well, and Cinders and Sparrows was no exception. To be honest, it reminded me a little of the Stella Montgomery series in the sense that there’s a bit of a mystery, both girls are orphans and there’s this sort of creepy and atmospheric setting to it. I was so so happy to find something that filled the void I’d been feeling since finishing that trilogy and I think that was part of the reason I enjoyed this so much. I loved Zita and the way we get to see her grow through this book. I also really loved Bram and Minnifer who become friends with Zita in the story—I just really loved the friendship between them. From what I can tell, this is a standalone but I was really happy with the way it ended.

So those are my mini middle-grade reviews for today. Have you read any of these?

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