Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.
And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….
This is the first book in a brand new series by Rin Chupeco author of The Never Titlting World. Tala Warnock is a Makiling, someone who can negate magic and spelltech. Fortunately for her Invierno, the town she lives in, is one of the few in the Royal States of America where magic and spelltech rarely works and Tala likes to make herself as normal as possible. That all changes when Alex, the Prince of Avalon gets sent to Inviero to hide from the government who would kill to get their hands on Avalon’s spelltech. You see, Avalon is covered in snow and Ice and Alex can only try and save his country when he comes of age and the legendary Firebird finds him. Tala, Alex and a misfit bunch of Banders, guards to the royalty of Avalon, end up journeying to Avalon to try and break the curse currently keeping the country on Ice. Only there are people all around her keeping secrets, a traitor in their midst and an enemy on their heels they thought was dead.
Tala was a great character, she was so normal… or at least she wants to be. She just wants to fit in at school, meet a boy go on a date. Unfortunately her whole family, blood and extended are magically inclined, and being a Makiling makes her a rare commodity. She kind of stumbles her way through the book, still growing into her powers and herself. She was a simple, teenage girl and that made her really relatable as a character. There are a whole host of other characters in this book, and if i mentioned every single one we would be here for quite a while. From Alex, heir to the Avalonian throne, Zara, Cole, Ken, West and Loki are the Banders sent by the Cheshire to protect Alex and get him to Avalon in one piece and Lola Urduju, Tita Teejay, Tita Baby, General Luna and a whole host more are Lola’s neighbours and The KAtipunero’s legendary Avalon warriors. Each character is given a personality, a purpose and not one of them seems defunct, or simply there for storytelling purposes.
Ok so let me just start by saying this book was not at all what I expected, not that I had many expectations. I loved Never Tilting World and thought this might be of a similar style… boy was I wrong. This is the world we know and love only with magic. Oh and Neverland exists, as does Peter Pan, Hook, Wendy. The ancient Kingdom of Avalon has been at war with the Snow Queen for years and the last battle, the Wonderland wars, ended that badly the Snow Queen Died and Avalon was frozen. Wonderland did exist, but was blown up, yes you read that right… the Cheshire cat made it out alive though. Basically every fairytale you read as a kid, every princess & prince, magical land, legendary weapon, they all exist, and that was one of my favourite things about this book. I loved all the little easter eggs the author included, and I loved the whimsical writing style she used throughout the book.
Yes this book is hilarious, witty and a full blown adventure, but at its heart is a harrowing tale about immigration, children being taken away from their parents and racism… all of which couldn’t be more relevant in the current political climate. I think this is a book that needed to be written, and I loved how the author used magic and different magical lands to show how prejudiced the world can be. She doesn’t really hit hard with the whole immigration thing, but her use of ICE agents and their general dislike for other magical cultures, especially those of colour really got her point across, and we see through different magical communities how they have effected their lives. I read somewhere that the author said this was a book that she has wanted to write and publish for a while, and though she deals with it lightly we still see the pain and general discomfort that people of colour go through on a daily basis.
This book was such a fun read, even with the deep topics it delved into. I did find that the ending seemed a little rushed, the characters spent nearly 80% of the book getting to the final battle and it was over a little too quickly for my liking. There weren’t many twists and turns until the end but it was one I did not see coming at all, and left me eager to get my hands on the next book. An easy 4/5 read that just made me fall more in love with Chupeco’s writing style and storytelling.