Magic is messy. A standalone middle grade fantasy featuring a failed young wizard and her chaotically fun cleanup crew.
Cara Moone is a wizard—and she’s basically flunked out of wizard school. Now she’s in training to be a MOP, a.k.a. Magical Occurrence Purger, a.k.a. it’s Cara’s job to sweep up the hazardous dust a real wizard’s spells leave behind.
A real wizard, that is, like Harlee Wu, the so-called “Chosen One” destined to save the magical world. But when one of Harlee’s spells goes awry and leaves behind a rift in the fabric of magic itself, it’ll take more than magic to clean up that mess. Luckily, messes are kind of Cara’s thing.
I feel like snarky books can be kind of a risk for me, because sometimes I love the quirkiness and confidence of the main character, and other times it kind of grates on my nerves and seems like the character can never be happy with anything. This book packs a lot of snark, but it brings an awful lot of fun, too, so I felt like the upbeat, quirky fun elements created the perfect balance.
I enjoyed the way the relationships developed and watching Cara learn new things about the magical world in which she lives as well as her journey toward finding her place in it. I really liked the idea that certain types of magic leave behind a residue that has to be cleaned by specialists like Cara. I’ve never seen anything like that before, and I loved that at the end of the story, there’s a note from the author about his family member who made his own brooms, too. How cool to be able to bring something so personal to life in a fantasy novel. I loved that it was part of the inspiration.
To be honest, I’m a little bit sad that SPELL SWEEPER is a standalone! I would definitely read another book about Cara, Harlee, Gusto and their friends. I feel like readers looking for stories about schools for wizard students will love this fresh, fun book.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Representation There’s a magical hierarchy at Cara’s school. Wizards get additional privileges and access to certain coursework that Cara, as a Spell Sweeper, doesn’t get.
Profanity/Crude Language Content There are some made up swears, like “dratch”.
Romance/Sexual Content None.
Spiritual Content Some characters have the ability to perform magic or can use objects to perform magic.
Violent Content Situations of peril.
Drug Content Some teen characters vape or smoke cigarettes.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SPELL SWEEPER in exchange for my honest review.
By now you’ve probably already heard the news that the release date for Disney’s Mulan is getting pushed back indefinitely. I’m so bummed about this! I don’t go to the movies all that often, but this one has been at the top of my must-see list.
So here’s a thing that I’m pretty embarrassed about: I grew up as a Disney girl, and Mulan is one of my favorite movies they’ve made, but it wasn’t until I started to hear buzz about a new live-action remake that I learned that Disney’s inspiration for the story of Mulan actually comes from a Chinese folk song from the North Wei Dynasty.
I shouldn’t have been surprised– Disney didn’t make up The Little Mermaid or Cinderella, either, you know? I guess I just never really thought about the origin of the story until I heard about the live-action remake and the controversy surrounding who was writing Mulan retellings– and whether white writers should be the ones telling this Asian-inspired fantasy story or whether it should be told by Chinese writers instead.
UPDATE: I wrote this post before the movie came out and before I learned of some of the controversy over its filming. It has been bothering me for a long time that I haven’t acknowledged that here. Here’s some information about why people have decided to boycott the movie because of the filming location and China’s treatment of Chinese Uighur Muslims.
So…. Perhaps instead of watching the movie, check out and buy these books inspired by Asian myth, folklore, and legend that were written by Asian authors.
Reading Asian-Inspired Fantasy by Asian Authors
All of that started me thinking about books by Asian authors and as I started reading, I began to fall in love with books inspired by Asian history, folklore, and mythology that are written by Asian authors.
The good news is this: there are some amazing books that, like Mulan, are inspired by Asian history and folklore and are just waiting for us to snatch them off the shelves and read them.
I’ve broken the list into two sections: series and stand-alone books. Check them out, let me know what you’ve read, and please tell me if I’ve missed any titles that should be included! I searched quite a bit before making my list, but I’m sure there are a few I’ve missed and I would love to add them.
Asian-Inspired Fantasy Series
Some of the series listed here (such as Shadow of the Fox) require you to read the books in order, but others (like The Star-Touched Queen) are much more loosely connected and allow you to read whatever appeals to you in whatever order. Check them out and see what meets your preferences. Also– for the books I’ve reviewed, you’ll find detailed content at the bottom of my review post, so be sure to click over to the review and look for that if it interests you.
Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything to use, but when used, help support this blog.
What you need to know: Hailed as Mulan meets Project Runway. The series is also set in the Silk Road era and full of Chinese culture. It’s got magic, forbidden love, and unforgettable characters. One of my favorite books of 2019. Read my full review.
What you need to know: Forbidden romance, political intrigue, magic gone awry. A girl touched by a demon and forced into an engagement with the emperor to keep the peace for her people. This is at the top of my To-Be-Read list.
What you need to know: Two sisters with very different preferred weapons: one uses a sword, the other, words. Loads of political intrigue, battles, strong heroines. It’s beautiful. Read my full review.
The Empress of Flames
What you need to know: I’m pretty sure the release date for this book was originally early this year, but it’s since been pushed back to March of next year, which is super sad! I wanted to at least mention it in this list, since I’m really excited to read it. You can add it to your reading list and learn more on Goodreads.
What you need to know: Less a sequel and more a companion novel. Filled with the same gorgeous writing and world-building as the Star-Touched Queen. Enemies to lovers. Witty banter. Filled with eerie mythological creatures. Read my full review.
What you need to know: Read the other books in the series before this one– lots of it focuses on the final battle, so it won’t be as easy to follow or understand if you haven’t read earlier books. Based on Japanese mythology. Fierce heroine who never gives up and refuses to sacrifice her friends. Fantastic conclusion to an incredible series. Read my full review.
What you need to know: I’m not sure if this book is part of the series exactly– Goodreads lists it as book 2.5, so it takes place between the other two books and maybe more of a companion novel? Same beautiful Asian-inspired fantasy story-world.
What you need to know: Features the creepiest trees you’ve ever read. Seriously spooky! Celebrates the bonds of sisterhood/friendship. Packed with fantastic banter and sarcasm. High energy plot that will keep you turning pages. Read my full review.
Books two and three are currently untitled, but expected to follow. I can’t wait!
Standalone Asian-Inspired Fantasy
Sometimes a series feels like a big commitment, especially when the books are so closely tied together that you can’t read one without reading the others first. These are two standalone novels inspired by Chinese history, culture and mythology that are a perfect choice for readers who aren’t up for the commitment of a whole series.
What you need to know: Coming-of-age story about a child bride in medieval China. Based on history, culture, and mythology. Haunting and unusual. Reminded me a little bit of the story of Mulan in that it features a a strong heroine in a time period and culture where she feels entirely out of place for her strength. Read my review.
What you need to know: Chinese-inspired fantasy. Features a strong heroine willing to risk everything in the pursuit of justice. Thrilling courtroom drama. Ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it’s uncertain whether there will be a follow-up novel.