Anya and the Nightingale

HMH/Versify. Nov. 2020. 416p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358006022.
Gr 5-8–Anya’s quest to save her father turns into an adventure that is both heartbreaking and enlightening, in this sequel to Anya and the Dragon. Thirteen-year-old Anya experiences flashbacks to her near-death battle and her father still hasn’t returned, so she takes matters into her own hands. Best friends Ivan and dragon Håkon go along for the ride. Their plan to find Anya’s dad is derailed by the mysterious Lena, who gives magical gifts and cryptic advice, including turning Håkon into a human (to his utter confusion) before sending them not to Anya’s dad, but to Kiev, where they encounter the Nightingale, a being of immense magical power. They also meet Princess Vasilisa and her entourage, which includes Misha, the first Jewish person outside of her own family Anya has ever met. A dream leads Anya to find the Nightingale again, who turns out to be a Deaf forest elf named Alfhercht with a very good reason for fighting the Tsar. Anya agrees to help Alfhercht rescue his brother, despite the fact that it could keep her from saving her father. A real strength is the continued growth and development of the three main characters: Anya’s PTSD and slowly growing confidence, Håkon’s struggles with his new body and need for companionship, and Ivan’s freely given heart, which eventually settles on Alfhercht. Supporting players are also written with similar care. Alfhercht’s deafness is depicted without stigma or fanfare. Instances of modern language, like the odd “Wow!” can be a little jarring, but make the story more accessible, and the ending leaves the door open for at least one more sequel.
VERDICT A fine, maybe even better, follow-up to the original. Recommended for juvenile fantasy collections.

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