CYBILS FINALIST and ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE FICTION WINNER: Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
ABOUT THE BOOK
Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
While I am not normally a fan of vampire and undead stories, I am a fan of Thorn and Lily. Thorn is a fierce young boy whose a slave as the story opens. Thorn has a gift for getting himself in trouble, which he does right off the bat when he infuriates his current owner. Luckily or maybe not to luckily, this brings him to the notice of Tyburn, the executioner for the country of Gehenna. Tyburn buys Thorn and takes him back to Gehenna where Thorn meets Lily. Lilith Shadow is the only remaining member of her family, her father, mother, and elder brother were murdered a few months back. And now Lily has been pressured into marrying Gabriel, the son of the Duke of Solar, long an enemy Gehenna. But Lily doesn't like Gabriel and she thinks its unfair that girls aren't allowed to practice magic. But shadow magic comes easily to Lily and she may need it to save her home. Before long Thorn and Lily, and a Solar prisoner named Kleef find themselves neck deep in trouble. Between accusations of treason, unauthorized magic, and a scarred man who seems to be necromancer, Thorn and Lily end up needing all the help they can get.
Khan has written a book full of great characters, witty/sarcastic dialogue, and plot twists galore. I especially liked Hades, the giant bat that Thorn befriends. And Lily, fiesty girl, who is determined to fight for her home despite the efforts of almost everyone else to keep her in her place. While the book is quite dark, the characters keep the story from being overwhelmingly so. The story moves along briskly making the book hard to put down. I'm anxious to get my hands on the second book so I can find out what happens to Thorn and Lily next.
CYBILS WINNERS--to check out the other great CYBILS 2016 winners see here.