Scholastic. Sept. 2019. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338332629.
Gr 6 Up–This stand-alone novel explores the dangerous and illegal nature of real magic. Aza Wu is aware of the threat, especially since casting killed her older sister, Shire, nearly a year ago. Now solely responsible for earning the money to pay off quasi-gangster Saint Willow, Aza must creatively earn marks and pay tribute so her family can keep its teahouse business in Lotusland. Two intertwined plots ensue. Soon Aza finds a secret invitation to an underground casting tournament, seemingly a fix for her financial woes, but it turns out not to be an easy answer. As the rules of this world dictate: real magic, real consequences. As Aza competes, she finds herself fighting for her life against some strong and dishonest opponents. Furthermore, Aza has questions about her sister’s death and facts that just don’t add up. When the police start to investigate, when tributes aren’t paid, and when Aza is caught with fresh casting wounds, her deceit continues to grow, alarming her family and putting her whole future in jeopardy. The novel features uniquely detailed world-building with a compelling protagonist.
VERDICT Readers are in for a spellbinding adventure with themes of duty, justice, revenge, and sacrifice. A magic-filled page-turner.

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