Shadowspell Academy: The Culling Trials

Sky Pony. Nov. 2019. 576p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510755109.
Gr 9 Up–True to her name, Wild is a spunky Texas farm girl who can hold her own as a rancher and fighter. Even after losing her older brother and mother in a mysterious accident, she never suspects that her family has unique magical gifts until a summons appears for the Culling Trials—preamble to admission to Shadowspell Academy. To save her younger brother, she takes his place in the trials and has to survive trolls, vampires, and zombies, all while learning that she is the target of still more powerful magical people with malevolent intentions. Wild’s dark world will appeal to readers in search of plot-driven fantasy. While the Culling Trials keep the energy high in the story, they also crowd out opportunities for larger world-building and the development of romance. However, this book introduces a cast of characters who are by turns quirky, endearing, and frustrating, each of whom will prove intriguing to follow through future series installments.
VERDICT The “Shadowspell Academy” series opens with a high-speed paranormal adventure about burgeoning friendship, teenage dramas, and self-discovery. Recommended for readers of fantasy and paranormal romance.

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