Friday, March 18, 2016

Magical Middle Grade Adventure Story Engaging, Engrossing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In a land now torn apart by war, the mountain stronghold of Ortana remains neutral.  The home of the archivists—educated men and women who devote their lives to studying and preserving the strange, otherworldly objects that fall through the sky during meteor storms—it's meant to be a place of learning, a place of peace.  The leaders of Ortana are sheltering refugees, but they refuse to choose sides in the fight between other nations.  At least that's what they tell the citizens.  As it turns out, Ortana may not be as uninvolved as it would like to appear ...  

Lina Winterbock, a junior apprentice studying to be an archivist, has never really fit in in Ortana.  Her insatiable curiosity has led to enough mishaps to make her peers, teachers, and guardian wary of her presence.  Still, she has the heart of an archivist—nothing makes her happier than crawling through Ortana's dusty tunnels on exploratory trips into the unknown corners of her world.  Unbeknownst to anyone else, she's discovered an incredible artifact of her own, an airship so magnificent it must be kept hidden from the other archivists.  She can't risk someone stealing her amazing find.

With her mind only on her her airship, Lina doesn't recognize another of Ortana's mysteries until she literally runs into it.  Or him, rather.  She knows Frederick isn't just another refugee, but who is he?  As Lina comes to trust the mysterious boy, she enlists his help with the half-buried airship.  Little does she know, he has his own reasons for wanting to dig out the relic.  Neither realizes what the airship really is, nor what it will mean for their friendship, their future, and tide of the Iron War that is tearing their beloved Solace apart.

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson is a magical novel (not that archivists believe in magic, mind you) set in the same world as the author's last book, The Mark of the Dragonfly.  It doesn't appear to be a sequel exactly; if it is, it stands alone well.  At any rate, the story is a gripping, imaginative one, full of mystery, adventure, and plenty of danger.  Sympathetic characters, plus a well-paced plot, not to mention solid, vivid prose combine to make this an enjoyable read.  It kept me engrossed and eager to learn more about the world of Solace.  Kids who dig magical adventures should find lots to love in Johnson's engaging series.

(Readalikes:  Although I haven't read it yet, The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson is actually the first book in the Solace series.  The book also reminded me a little of Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Secrets of Solace from the generous folks at Random House Children's Books.  Thank you!


  1. I enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly. It's in a really interesting world--I look forward to exploring it more!

    1. I'm definitely going to pick up THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. I didn't realize when I read it that THE SECRETS OF SOLACE was the second book in the series. It's a good stand-alone, but I always like reading series in order.

  2. I've struggled with middle grade books as I've gotten older. I'm hoping if I ever have kids my love for MG will be renewed.

    1. Really? I think I like them more as an adult. It's nice to step into a simple, fast-moving story without investing too much time or energy. I've found lots of great MGs lately.


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