Ballad & Dagger

Rick Riordan Presents. (Outlaw Saints: Bk. 1). May 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781368070829.
Gr 9 Up–Featuring a mix of urban fantasy, magical elements, and lots of music, this novel is full of adventurous moments and politically charged issues. Mateo Matisse still remembers when his homeland of San Madrigal, a small island, was tragically swallowed by the sea when he was very young. Now residing in Brooklyn as a high school junior with his two aunts, Mateo dreams of showcasing his magical and talented piano skills with local musical legend, Gerval. One day, he gets the chance at an event known as the Grand Fete, a party held every year that celebrates mixed cultures that used to reside in San Madrigal for centuries before its sinking. Unfortunately, his world is completely shattered when he sees a horrible killing committed by someone he thought he knew well. What follows is an ancient battle that throws Mateo right in the middle, where secrets are quickly revealed. Mateo realizes that he possesses powers that he never knew he had, or that were even possible, which could unlock the secret as to why San Madrigal was seemingly destroyed. He soon finds out he is actually Galanika, a healer god, and he must find two other people with similar powers in order to bring back their island home. Mateo also meets fellow teen, Chela, with whom he has amazing chemistry. Readers will enjoy watching their relationship unfold as they learn from each other.
VERDICT A perfect blend of a suspenseful plot, musical vibes, a diverse cast, and ethereal elements that will stay with readers.

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