HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2021. 464p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062696663.
Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old twin sisters Brier and Thorn, who have pale skin and brown eyes, live in war-torn Vale. Their soldiers battle a monster, Gulgot, who dwells in an ever-widening chasm. With unicorn Noro, Brier harvests lightning for weapons, but is burned, and Thorn, a street sweep, assumes her identity and accepts the Queen’s order to find more lightning. On her journey, Thorn discovers the lightning is actually trapped stormwitches like her new friend, Zaf, who has pale skin and white hair. While Thorn and Zaf recruit help, Brier realizes her work imprisoned witches and she repents. Queen Celestyna, meanwhile, has made a dark bargain with a witch in a desperate attempt to stop the evil encroachment. Witches, soldiers, and Vale citizens are described with various skin tones including pale, brown, and black. Thorn and Brier each play a role in establishing peace. LeGrand’s story features loving siblings with very different personalities, setting up a familiar dynamic for children. The peril always seems real, evoked fully as the author switches from Thorn’s to Brier’s to Celestyna’s to the Gulgot’s internal thoughts. The dark Chasm and the black, boglike infection that spreads from it are well delineated with multisensory writing. Numerous place names, plot threads, and origin stories make for confusing world building. Some elements are intense and morally complex. It’s important to find the right reader for a story where several children murder other humans and witches.
VERDICT An additional purchase where readers relish edgy, intricate fantasy.

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