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The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr - a book review

Publisher's Synopsis: "Grisha is a dragon in a world that's forgotten how to see him. Maggie is a unusual child who thinks she's perfectly ordinary. They're an unlikely duo—but magic, like friendship, is funny. Sometimes it chooses those who might not look so likely. And magic has chosen Grisha and Maggie to solve the darkest mystery in Vienna. Decades ago, when World War II broke out, someone decided that there were too many dragons for all of them to be free. As they investigate, Grisha and Maggie ask the question everyone's forgotten: Where have the missing dragons gone? And is there a way to save them? At once richly magical and tragically historical, The Language of Spells is a novel full of adventure about remembering old stories, forging new ones, and the transformative power of friendship."

My Two Cents: This is a tough one because this book has all the elements present in my perfect kind of story: dragons, coming of age friendship, a quest, and deep themes. I expected to LOVE The Language of Spells, and I did really enjoy some of it, but it was so uneven and slow to start that it misses the mark for its intended middle grade audience. Therefore, as a reviewer focused on children's experience with a book and/or teaching implications, I have several misgivings.

The Good Parts:  The writing has a fairy-tale lyrical quality to it. Good for read-alouds and some readers can appreciate the singsong style. The characters are charming. There are beautiful themes in there… all about friendship, magic, coming of age, and something about imaginary friends and letting go of childhood. I really like the idea, like Mr. Potter, that magic is happening around us muggles and we miss it. The setting is beautiful and I think it has potential for some readers to want to learn more about Europe after reading it. adore the (next-to) ending line, “After all, even when you can’t see it, magic is still there, tucked into shadows and corners.” 


The Qualifiers: The writing has a fairy-tale lyrical quality to it, but it tells instead of shows. Average middle grade readers will be yawning. 
The characters are charming, but it takes over sixty pages for the quest characters to even emerge. Again, average middle grade audience will be yawning. 
There are beautiful themes in there, but it gets lost in all that telling. 
The setting is beautiful, but why set a story in a very particular time and place if you are not going to explore the particulars? Adult readers get the point that postwar Europe is devoid of magic and that war has costs, but most children do not have this background knowledge. 
I adore the ending line, and though I am prone to throw books across the room with bad endings, I did not throw this book. I actually shed a small tear because adult me thinks I got the point, but again, I do not believe every kid will get the ending point. I think a good deal of them will throw the book or expect a sequel - which I do not believe to be the author's intent at all. 


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Genre: Fantasy

Age: 8-12

Pages: 308

Themes: Coming-of-Age, Friendship, Costs of Power,  Costs of Doing the Right Thing and Being Older (loss of childhood eyes)

Character Development: Strong likability and sweet personalities, a little uneven

Plot Engagement: There is supposed to be a quest, but it's not really much of one. More telling is stuff than showing any actions

Originality: Great idea!

Believability: Although the idea is beautifully original, the believability falters under the un-plotted possibilities that were not explored 

Thank You to NetGalley and Publisher Chronicle Books for my advanced eBook copy.

Date: Out June 26, 2018

ISBN: 9781452159584 

Here is a nice discussion Guide from the publishers

BUY The Language of Spells HERE 



You can read more about the author on her website: HERE


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 © 2007-2018 Dr. Cheryl Vanatti, education & reading specialist writing at www.ReadingRumpus.com

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