Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

368p. (Jane Doe Chronicles). Lerner. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541539211.
Gr 4 Up—"Cursed" Jane Doe exists to take care of her nonresponsive father and avoid the slurs of the "good people" of Bluehaven who view her infant arrival from the world portal known as the Manor as apocalyptic. Calamity strikes again when Jane is 14 and the Manor reopens. Intrepid adventurer Winifred Robin insists Jane must reenter the Manor to save the world and rescue her father. Once there, Jane finds a violent world ruled by Roth, who wishes to conquer all the Manor and all the gateway worlds by collecting three keys, one of which Jane possesses. Jane teams up with an ancient Manor resident Hickory to seek more keys in the Manor's hostile realms. Jane and her companions, Violet and Hickory, are distinct, likeable characters. Jane has a wry humor paired with intense vulnerability over her near-orphan status. Hickory is an unknown quantity—he acts in his own interest, and perhaps sequels will reveal his true motivation. Violet's preference for fire and explosions as diversions is highly amusing. Their quirky personalities will help readers persist with a complicated backstory referencing gods and the creation of the Manor. Fast-paced adventure and numerous escapes move forward an abundance of episodes and shifting narratives. Mild swearing and a brief discussion of Jane's romantic interest point toward a middle school audience, along with other complex story elements.
VERDICT Relatable characters balance the dense setting and plotting. Purchase where adventure is in strong demand.

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