Review by Booklist Review
The quaint, sleepy town where Ailis lives with her gruff-but-loving grandma isn't actually that sleepy--at night, it's taken over by supernatural creatures like Ailis and her family, who are weirns, magic-wielding humans accompanied by protective astrals, spiky black creatures with lots of personality. Ailis and her cousins, Na'ya and D'esh, have long heard stories about the creepy house in the woods on their way to school, and they've dutifully kept their distance. But when an eerie light and an eerier masked man appear near the house, a kid at Ailis' school starts acting weird and deep secrets about Ailis' grandmother float to the surface. Chmakova's manga-inspired, softly colored artwork teems with personality, from the emphatic fonts and dynamic movement to the expressive faces of the astrals, who puff up like cats when they're scared. Fans of Chmakova's Berrybrook Middle School series will be pleased to find a similar brand of pitch-perfect middle-school drama, including crushes, mean girls, and school-wide competitions, all adeptly folded into a Miyazaki-like fantasy world rich with charming magic, unusual creatures, and lush world building that leave plenty of room for other stories. This simply delightful, just-scary-enough adventure starring spunky, relatable kid protagonists will find easy appeal among a broad range of middle-grade comics fans.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Weirns, or witches "born with a demon guardian spirit bound to them for life," star in this engaging series starter. In the small New England town of Laitham, weirn-in-training Ailis Maeve Thornton lives with her grandma, who runs a magic shop. Ailis attends night school alongside her dragon-obsessed, fellow-weirn biracial cousin Na'ya; their neighbor-frenemy weirn Jasper; and Russ, a werewolf neighbor Ailis is crushing on. Taking a shortcut through the Silent Woods, Ailis, Na'ya, and Na'ya's younger brother D'esh are confronted near the Woods' central haunted mansion by a Night Thing who's been following Ailis. Home to events that left a generation of weirn children missing, the mansion's lurking darkness almost captures D'esh and subsequently succeeds in capturing Patricia Chow, Ailis and Na'ya's weirn nemesis. As the cousins investigate, family history comes to light, complicating matters. Classic manga visuals enrich Chmakova's charming, full-color art: sweeping magic amid serene concentration, shadows accentuating fear-inspiring retorts from authority figures, and facial contortions add humor to life-and-death stakes. Though the graphic novel is packed with disparate elements, it's accessible: Chmakova smartly keeps the focus on family, friendship, and the relatable struggles of fitting in. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8--12. (June)
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