“In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic in one secret…”
This book was a delight! A magical, joyful delight!
At the very beginning, we are introduced to Derwin Edward Night, a young and talented scrivenist heading to serve his new Royal family. Except, he never quite makes it and we are left with very mysterious clues as to his fate.
Enter Ivy Lovely. Ivy is a young scaldrony maid, whose sole job is to manage the scaldrons (dragons) that function as ovens. Ivy’s life gets disrupted fairly quickly as she finds herself thrown out of the castle with only a mysterious letter from her friend, Rimbrick, to guide her.
For reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she is picked up and enrolled into the scrivener school, The Halls of Ivy.
Life does not get easier for Ivy, nor easier to understand as the school year progresses. Ivy finds herself in trouble more times than she thinks is fair, especially considering most of the events are either out of her control or not her fault. However, each trip to the Selector’s office raises more questions for Ivy and her curiosity finally gets the better of her.
But things are not what they seem. Ivy’s books from her castle have mysteriously emptied themselves as soon as she left the slurry fields. The Selector is taking paintings off the walls and hiding them, along with other artifacts, in the Forgetting Room. A room that everyone forgets about, except Ivy. And then there’s the matter of the pirate in her professor’s Glanagerie bottle.
Everything about this book was fun to read. The world building is enthralling. And woven throughout the story are clues to a building mystery.
Right away I want to know what happened to Derwin Night. We see glimpses of him sprinkled throughout the book; however, each encounter leaves me with more questions than before!
Then, there’s the matter of the Dark Queen. She seems as mysterious as Night, though her presence is definitely more known, and feared throughout Croswald. But who is she? And how did she claim power? And what does she want?
Ivy finds herself surrounded by friends and foes alike. Some are harmless, like Damaris, a haughty princess who thinks it’s hilarious to torment a scaldron maid turned scrivenist. While others are true friends, looking out for her and trying to help her, Winsome, Fyn and Rebecca most notably.
And then there’s the Wandering Family and the Lost Queen. Why are they wandering? Where did they go? And can they ever be found?
This book is intended for a younger audience, specifically Middle grade. Therefore, some of the clues and plot points may read somewhat predictable for a more experienced reader. For me, this wasn’t an issue. Even the pieces that were predictable were done in a very enjoyable way. Meaning, suspecting the outcome didn’t make the reading any less fun. And while I suspected some plot lines, there are still many that took me by surprise and left me wanting more!
The book is described as Harry Potter meets Cinderella meets Percy Jackson.
I think that description is appropriate and fitting. There is a magical, fairy tale feel to the story. D.E. Night has created a very submersive world, and it is easy to get swept away in the whimsy of it.
The details of the world are clever and creative. Instead of directly controlling magic through a wand or hands or even potions, Night created the use of a quill, and uses drawing and writing as the primary mode of magic. I found this to be very creative, especially as a writer uses words to actually create magic. I love this subtlety!
The creatures that inhabit this world are easy to identify and relate to other or similar creatures, and the names are cute and clever. Scaldrons are dragons. Hairies are fairies. Even more clever is how the names relate to their function in the world. Scaldrons are used as ovens, as mentioned earlier. Instantly the picture of a scalding hot oven or stovetop came to mind. Hairies have hair that lights up. It makes it easy to remember not just what they look like and what they do, but gives the world depth and texture that would otherwise perhaps be lost or bogged down with too much detail.
Even though we are given a satisfying ending to the book, it is clear there is more coming. Questions are still unanswered and mysteries still need to be solved. Night has cemented a very solid foundation so that future story lines can easily be built.
On top of a very fun and well-paced story line, the book itself is absolutely gorgeous. The cover is bright and colorful, the back art is rich and beautiful and each chapter heading is given a darling little drawing related to the story that unfolds within. And if you get a chance to visit the authors website, I strongly suggest you take it! You will feel the beauty and the magic and the whimsy that is Croswald.
From start to finish, this book is full of magic. The details are thought out and well executed. It is an enjoyable, fast, fun read!
I look forward to reading more of this world and can’t wait to see what happens next with Ivy and her friends. This was a solid introduction to Ivy, the school and the world in general. I hope to see much deeper exploration of minor characters and an expansion to the details of the world around Ivy in future books.
I cannot thank JKS Communications and D.E. Night enough for sending me an early copy of this novel, along with a stunning box full of magical delights! Each detail was as well thought out and as cleverly curated as the book. It was a delight to open!
This book comes out July 21. The pre-order link is below: