Book Review: Fiona Thorn and The Carapacem Spell by Jen Barton

16053916Title: Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell

Author: Jen Barton

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Rating: 4 stars

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

When Fiona Thorn, an ornery orphan with an expertise in explosives, sets out to rescue her imprisoned friend, Jaydin Rowan, she wants nothing more than a few sleeping guards and a satchel full of Blast. What she gets is a run-in with three bickering princesses that puts all four girls on the wrong side of a locked dungeon door.

Now, accidentally involved in a plot to assassinate the King and accused of kidnapping the princesses, Fiona must find a way to free them all, save the King, and rescue Jaydin, all while struggling to pay the magical debt that’s slowly killing her. Unless the princesses’ annoying sibling rivalry kills her first.

Packed with powerful magic, fun-loving fairies and a vicious ogre turned pet, Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell is a fantasy kids’ book sure to become a favorite in middle grade fiction.

Fiona Thorn and The Carapacem Spell is the first book in a series based on Fiona Thorn, an orphan girl who likes things that explode and who hates annoying princesses. The series is set in a magical kingdom, with other fantastical creatures such as faeries, cave bodkins, witches and more. The story starts off with Fiona, who’s trying to free her best friend Jayden from prison where he’s locked up after he’s been wrongfully accused of placing a curse on a young boy. Fiona intends to break him out of prison, but no sooner has she come near the castle, or she runs into the three princesses. Each of them manages to annoy Fiona in their own way, and while she’s eager to find her friend, they keep on stalling her. When they finally reach the castle, it becomes clear that there’s a huge plot going on to assassinate the king. Running for their lives, Fiona and the princesses must flee from the castle.

With her mission a big failure and Jayden’s life at stake, Fiona is fresh out of ideas. Her own life force is bleeding out of her after she asked for the Carapacem Spell, a risk she was willing to take if it meant Jayden would be saved. Now she’s being accused of kidnapping those wretched princesses, and Jayden is still locked up in the tower, things look grim for Fiona…

Fiona’s personality was a bit annoying at times. She had a smart mouth, and even though I can forgive quite a bit, it started working on my nerves around halfway through the book. I know middle grades like intelligent protagonists, but teaching them it’s all right to be as smart-mouthed as Fiona is, may be pushing it a bit. Even though Fiona’s attitude may be questionable at times, her heart is clearly at the right spot. She wants to rescue Jayden, and is even willing to risk her life to accomplish that, which I thought was very touching. She’s also quite a stubborn girl, and this adds to her personality.

I wasn’t a big fan of the princesses. They each complained, whined and complained some more. The little one was my favorite, because, thankfully, little Cricket couldn’t talk yet. Thank God, though, because the ones that could were annoying. It’s quite funny though to have such annoying brats tag along with Fiona on her adventures, and I imagine small children would’ve laughed out loud several times where I just grinned during the book. I did like the snake with his impossibly long name, and Manzy the talking horse.

This story has a lot of potential, and for a debut novel, it’s pretty good. I thought the pacing was a bit off though. In the beginning, we’re literally thrown into the story without much introduction, which may not be the best choice for the audience this book is meant for (middle graders). Then there are parts that dragged on, and other parts that were quickly skimmed through, some of these parts pretty interesting and necessary for the story. Apart from the pacing issues though, I had a blast reading this book and I’m confident middle graders would love it as well.

A fantastical adventure for middle graders that can be enjoyed by adults as well.

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