The Secret of Lillian Velvet

Levine Querido. (Kingdoms and Empires: Bk. 5). Oct. 2023. 444p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781646142613.
Gr 4-7–Orphan Lillian Velvet spends her dreary days stuck at home, rarely able to venture out from the watchful eye of her despicable grandmother. Her life is a checklist of homeschooling tasks and household chores until the morning of her 10th birthday. Mysteriously, Grandmother gives Lillian a pickle jar of strange coins, which she discovers will pay her toll to visit the world of Kingdoms and Empires. Lillian is whisked off on short trips to this enchanting land where she makes new friends and thrilling discoveries. Lillian’s adventures develop an increasing sense of danger and urgency as she bounces through time, seeking answers to questions about herself, parents, and new friends. Lillian starts to notice common threads among her visits to Kingdoms and Empires. Will these threads help her solve the mystery of her own identity? Will she find what she needs before the entire world of Kingdoms and Empires becomes unraveled? Readers will have a hard time closing this book as they race to discover whether Lillian is the one pulling the threads apart or the only one who can knit them back together. Short chapters with alternating viewpoints, paired with a thrilling opening hook, will draw readers in from the first page. Lillian’s adventures take an extended time to coalesce into the climax, but the story does not lose momentum. Middle grade fantasy and adventure enthusiasts will revel in the frequent visits to Kingdoms and Empires. Moriarty broadens appeal here with quirky, charming characters, and richly developed themes of friendship and family. This tale of Kingdoms and Empires works just fine as a standalone, but Moriarty fans will be thrilled to see this new installment in the series.
VERDICT A must-have for any middle grade collection with fantasy lovers, and those who enjoy the likes of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, and Lemony Snicket.

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