The Thirteenth Fairy

Roaring Brook. (Chronicles of Never After: Bk. 1). Dec. 2020. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250311214.
Gr 4-7–“Once upon a time in the days of old, eleven fairies gathered at court before a child to hold. Only eleven, for the twelfth was dead and the thirteenth was missing.” At the christening of Princess Eliana, members of the court speculate why the 13th fairy, Princess Carabosse, is missing. While the Kingdom assumes the baby has been born to King Vladimir and evil Queen Olga, the baby’s actual mother is the newly dead Queen Rosanna. This series opener is broken into parts that tie the fairy tale to modern times. Part One begins with Filomena Jefferson-Cho embarking on an unexpected adventure. Filomena is a sixth grader in North Pasadena, CA, with overprotective adoptive author parents who are always telling her stories of fairies that steal kids. At school, Filomena is bullied and teased for being smart, adopted, and of mixed heritage (she is Black, Asian, and white), which propels her towards her love of reading and the “Never After” series. She, like many other die-hard fans, has eagerly awaited the 13th and final installment, only to be crushed to find out that the author mysteriously disappeared without completing the series. On her way home from the bookstore, she is followed by a boy who turns out to be the books’ dashing hero, Jack the Giant Stalker. He claims the books are an actual history of the fairy tribes. Author de la Cruz injects humor into the fantastical adventure among the heavier topics, such as bullying. Jack and Alistair come to Filomena’s aid, and the trio go through a portal into the real Never After. Filomena learns she may be the key to the missing Princess, and she and her new friends embark on a treacherous journey rife with dragons, ogres, and evil Queens.
VERDICT This series debut has something for most readers—a complex female heroine, middle school angst, plenty of action, and magic—which will leave them eagerly turning the pages

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