Between Monsters and Marvels
Published September 12, 2023
About Monsters and Marvels
In the next standalone high-stakes middle-grade fantasy by Alysa Wishingrad, the author of the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection The Verdigris Pawn, a misunderstood young girl named Dare is shipped to the mainland from her tiny island and uncovers startling secrets behind her father’s death, the island itself, and the monsters that lend its lore.
Monsters are still lurking on Barrow’s Bay.
Dare Coates is sure of it. No drifter or ruffian could have killed her father, the Captain of the Guard, while he was on patrol. But everyone insists that monsters have been gone for years now. Dare’s mother. Her classmates. Even the governor, who swiftly marries her mother just months after her father’s death.
Dare’s suspicions grow even stronger when the governor suddenly ships her off to the mainland, away from any hope of uncovering the truth about her father’s death.
Or so she thinks. But when Dare finds solid proof that monsters still exist she starts to question everything she’s always known. Was her father who she thought he was? Who can she trust? Where is the line between good and evil?
The truth hides behind danger and deception.
But with the help of an unlikely crew of cohorts and a stray beastie, nothing can stop Dare from finding out what happened to her father and exposing who the real monsters are.
This is the first book by Alysa Wishingrad that I’ve read. I’d heard of THE VERDIGRIS PAWN, and I think it was one of those books that I kept seeing other reviewers talking about, but I haven’t read it yet. The themes in this story about truth and deception and puzzling out who to trust in an unpredictable world drew me straight into this book.
I loved the way Dare wrestles with distrust and loneliness. Sometimes her loneliness pushes her to be open with someone, even if it’s simply to keep the conversation going and keep her loneliness at bay a little longer. She quickly learns that not everyone who appears friendly actually is, and some have dark motives hidden under layers of lies.
I liked the way the fantasy world of Barrows Bay and City-on-the-Pike came together. It’s a world of monsters, secrets, and illusions. Every time Dare thinks she has things figured out, she peels back a new layer and has to reevaluate based on what’s underneath.
I found her loneliness to be really easy to connect with. She is odd and something of an outcast, and that’s captured so well in the story. Anyone who has ever felt excluded by peers or as though they’re out of place in their own family will be able to connect with Dare. That loneliness also makes it a real celebration when Dare forges true friendships and sees the fruit of those connections in the story.
All in all, this is one I want for my family library. It’s whimsical and fun but also packed with a lot of heart. It’s an authentic story of friendship.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Major characters are white or white-passing.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Dare believes monsters with strange abilities still exist.
Reference to animal abuse (not shown on scene). Situations of peril. Some brief battle scenes. A brief description of Dare’s father’s death. She learns he was beheaded.
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