The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Five

Vali awoke some time later, her heart pounding. She was bound to a chair in a dark room, her hands and legs uncomfortably tied. She attempted to yell “Let me go!” but with tape across her mouth, it came out muffled.

She jolted to try to get out of the chair, but at that moment, a light flicked on. It was a small book light, and it was shining right in her eyes.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked a female voice.

The tape was ripped from her mouth and she shrieked from the pain.

“Why should I tell you anything?” she yelled.

Suddenly there was warmth on her leg. They were about to burn her!

Vali screamed. At that moment, she remembered her powers. She burnt all the ropes off of her body and jumped out of her chair, flinging her fists and flames at the unidentified person.

Or rather, people. She could see two silhouettes in the dark. One taller person, an adult, and one shorter, a person probably around her age.

Stop!” someone shouted. A door that Vali hadn’t known was part of the room opened, and a thirteen-year old girl with dirty blonde hair and glittering black eyes was standing there. “Everybody calm down.”

“You naïve child,” said the female voice Vali had heard from earlier. “She was going insane! We were merely trying to stop her.”

Vali swiveled around. The speaker was a middle-aged woman with wavy turquoise hair, gray streaked, and electric blue eyes. An aquatic.

“Hello,” the woman said, regaining her composure. “I am Storm, and this is Max.”

Vali looked at Max. He looked very similar to the girl in the doorway, except his face was peppered with freckles and he was a little bit shorter. He was holding up a lighter, sheepishly smiling.

Storm looked pointedly at the girl, and the girl pursed her lips. “I’m J.”

“Who are you?” Max asked. He had a raspy, strong voice.

“I’m not saying anything until you tell me why you did that to me.”

J rolled her eyes. “Well, we were taking precautions. We had a plan that if anyone ever found us, we would knock them unconscious and then question them. Which is exactly what we did.”

“But burning me?” Vali asked incredulously.

“Max was trying a new tactic,” Storm said after a short pause.

J walked inside of the room and flicked the light on. Vali was surprised to see that the room was an office, which looked like a hurricane had come through.“So,” Max said.

“You can trust us, I promise. What’s your name?”

Vali decided to come up with a fake name in the spur of the moment. “Harriet,” she lied.

“And a flame, I see,” Storm muttered. “But with purple hair!”

“It’s”—Vali stumbled over her words—“it’s a disguise thing.”

J narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking up from the papers she was rearranging and throwing on the desk, but she quickly looked back down.

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

Cover of The Thief Lord

From the books I have read that have been written by Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord has set my standards of a good book pretty high. Since when could a merry-go-round change your age? Since when did an evil uncle and aunt make their nephews run away in the dead of night?

The book, which is based in the magical city of Venice, Italy, has its own secrets down every alley and up every staircase. Of course, any story is boring without any good characters and a plot so delightful, nobody would be able to put it down, so that is where Prosper and Boniface (Bo) come in with their gang including Hornet, Riccio, Scipio, also known as the Thief Lord, and Mosca. All are orphans, except Prosper and Bo. They are runaways from their evil Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb.

Throughout their stay with the gang, they meet a detective who is hired to capture them who instead helps them, a secret that’s been kept from them for a long time, and recover a merry-go-round that turns time around. They have to keep friendship alive, trust one another, and face their fears all in one big adventure! Only then will they find a secret hidden within all the others.

Overall, this book was highly enjoyable. It was a great read, and I could not put down the book until the very last page. I don’t believe there was a part I did not like. Some parts of the book were sad and some were confusing. However, all the parts in the book were knitted well together which made for a terrific story in the magical world of Venice, Italy. I would definitely recommend it, especially for those who love reading about fantasy and magic. This was also about family and friendship all the way. Anyone who likes Harry Potter would find this enjoyable and Wings of Fire fans would like this book, too.

I rate this book a 9/10.

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan

Cover of Wicked Saints novel

Wicked Saints, written by Emily A. Duncan, is an action-packed fantasy filled with love and betrayal. It follows our main character Nadya, a cleric from Kalyazin who can speak to the gods, while she works to save her people. She meets Malachiasz, a blood mage from the rival kingdom Tranavia, who she works with to end the war. The book also follows Serefin, the crown prince, who is just trying to figure things out with his kingdom while trying not to die by the hands of his father. I would highly recommend this book so beware of spoilers down below.

The magic system in this book is refreshingly unique. Nadya herself has powers gifted to her by the gods and she speaks with them to get her power. The mysteries of her magic are explored throughout the book and it’s very intriguing. The Tranavians use a power called blood magic, which Nadya continuously calls heresy. They must use their blood to activate spells they draw into their spell books.

The plot of the book was similar to other young adult fantasy books: save the kingdom and end a war. What differs is that there is a clash in religion. While Nadya and her people believe in the gods and are very religious, the Tranavians seem to be atheists. The battle between the two opposing belief systems becomes a real conflict that can be shown in today’s society to some extent. It also leaves the reader in a peculiar position of not knowing which side to be on and wondering who they should really be rooting for.

The romance was very well done and heartbreaking. The rivalry between the two’s beliefs create the “forbidden romance” and adds to the confusion Nadya feels as she navigates her journey. The character development was amazing. Each had their own personality that was distinguishable from the others, which you don’t always find in young adult books. They all have internal struggles that could be relatable to some people. Serefin is the most relatable character and his personality is unlike others I’ve seen, which is refreshing and makes him a lovable character. The development for Nadya was smooth and believable, although the romance did move quickly at the beginning, so it could have used some more pages and adventures to flesh it out. Malachiasz was a confusing character towards the end of the book. As a perpetual liar, it was hard to distinguish what was real and what wasn’t, which could have been the author’s choice, but it left me a little frustrated.

The two of the side characters felt a little underdeveloped and sort of didn’t need to be there, so hopefully, Duncan gives them a chance to shine in future books. There was plenty of diversity in the book that didn’t feel forced, which will make it easier for all readers to feel connected to the book in some way.

The book is very dark and the characters have some morally grey areas that they have to cross when dealing with religion, so I would recommend this book to older teenagers if those topics bother you.

I would rate Wicked Saints 9/10 dragons for its unique story and heartbreaking romance.

The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron

Cover of The Lost Years of Merlin

Where in the darkness a castle doth spin,

Small will be large, ends will begin.

Only when giants make dance in the hall

Shall every barrier crumble and fall.

A young boy, washed up on the shores of a distant land, far from his native home Fincayra, has no memories. He has no home, no memory, nor a name. He then saves a young woman and himself from the clutches of a … boar? Yes, the young boy is put to the test in a few mere seconds. A few years later …

Branwen, the strong woman, is a healer and a teacher to Emrys, the young boy. However, in the village, they are scorned and laughed at because of their uniqueness. They are said to be demons, and one day, Emrys does something exceptional that causes his long journey. He has to leave. Branwen sends him off bitterly, warning him of the dangers of Fincayra and the enemy. But, alas, he leaves.

His journey will be troublesome. The sacrifices will be great. The bonds and friendships will be greater. His courage put to the test. And the enemy will be a long forgotten acquaintance. With his friends and a lot of help, perhaps Merlin will be able to find his past and maybe save Fincayra from the enemy. Just maybe.

I am Annalia: Part Twelve

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“Thank God I wore sneakers today,” I huffed to myself, trying to focus on the beating of my footsteps rather than the mob chasing me down. I could feel myself kicking up dust behind me as I entered the opposite side of the castle, which was much, much different than the luscious lavender forests I had arrived in.

I spun to the side at the last minute, my body skimming a scrawny tree that was leafless and had green skin and thorns instead. I dove my head forward and kept running, squinting my eyes at the ground. I can do this, I can do this, I thought to myself. I just need to outsmart them.

When I meant outsmart them, I did not mean trip over my shoelaces and have them catch me and rip me to pieces. No one would ever think of doing that, right?

So my feet decided to do that instead.

I got a face full of the rough, dusty ground, powdering my dark skin. I groaned as I looked down in disgust at my right shoe, gloriously untied before my eyes. Trying to get rid of my fear, I shook out my shoulders and took off, wiping off my glasses as I ran through the wind.

I glanced back over my shoulder, a mob of guards and unimaginable creatures emerging from the dust. Okay, I thought. I need a plan. I tried looking around at my surroundings, but all I could see before me was dust, dust, dust, sand, and more dust. And another tree cactus up ahead.

I wriggled my jaw, feeling the crisp breeze sting my raw skin that was opened from my fall. “Dang it,” I tried to mutter, only for it to come out as a sharp breath.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a flash of blue zip by me. I adjusted my glasses mid-run and whipped my head back at the mob. Nothing seemed to have changed.

That is, until I looked in front of me. Towering before me was a midnight black wolf, snarling at me as its blue lightning strikes on its sides gleamed at me, tinting the ground below.

I yelped out in surprise and stopped dead in my tracks. The wolf lunged at me with its mouth, shooting drool on my face. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” The wolf lunged at me once more, throwing its entire body in my direction.

“Gah!” I dove to the side at the last minute, sending myself tumbling into the side. I scrambled myself to my feet and glanced back, the mob getting closer.

The wolf started strolling up to me, practically smirking. I tightened my lips and balled my fists. “Oh boy,” I muttered. “This is going to be fun.” Once the wolf took another step, I decided it was my turn to attack.

I thrust out my hand at it half-blindly as I tried shielding my face from it. I tightened my chest as my stiff hand landed down on something cold and wet, bringing whatever I hit down with me.

I heard a sharp whimper from in front of me. I opened my eyes fully and saw the wolf cowering back. I knew in that moment I needed to take my chances.

I launched myself forward, slapping the wolf in the eye as I went by. Oh gosh, please don’t come after me yet. I had collectively decided at that point that I was no longer going to look back, since every time I did, it only made things much worse.

A few minutes went by, more like an eternity for me, and my strength was beginning to run low. So much for doing cross-country all those years. The sweat beads dripping down my face refusing to blow away in the weakening wind that ran behind me as I began to decelerate. I tried to press on harder, my legs turning to lead, but they refused to move any faster. But, my feet could manage to step on my loose shoelaces every five seconds.

And if things already didn’t seem bad enough, I could hear paws and feet thudding on the ground behind me.

They won’t kill me, I thought. They can’t. This must be some sick game of Viallanne’s. She didn’t even tell me why I was to be chased by everyone! She just sent me out here to die.

I glanced up hopelessly at the bright blue sky, wishing Tessa – no – Liku or someone would just appear next to me and at least lend me a hand. As I squinted up at the sky, I noticed something shooting across it, like a jet leaving a trail of smoke or fluff behind it.

But it wasn’t exactly like that. Something was off about it. I don’t know whether if it was because I was running, if I was hallucinating, or maybe the fact that I was in an alternate dimension. All I knew was that it wasn’t fading into the sky. It was coming towards me. Fast.

But that was the least of my problems, considering the ground below me then vanished into thin air.

 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD, narrates The Lightning Thief. He lives in New York City, and when the story begins, he is on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a Greco-Roman exhibit. A bully picks on his friend Grover Underwood. Percy pushes the bully into a fountain, and is taken away by his teacher, Mrs. Dodds. Percy expects to be punished, but is shocked when the teacher turns into a winged Fury and attacks him. The other chaperone, Mr. Brunner, appears and throws Percy a pen that changes into a sword. Percy swings at the monster, and she disappears. The other students do not remember seeing anything that happened, and they do not remember Mrs. Dodds. Percy convinces himself it was all a hallucination, except that Grover acts strangely around him, and he overhears Grover and Mr. Brunner talking about him.

As the summer starts, Percy and his mother, Sally, go to the beach. There’s a big storm, and the two are woken up by Grover, who reveals he is not a human teenager, but a Satyr with goat legs. He tells Percy and Sally they are in danger, and the three drive to a mysterious summer camp. Suddenly, they’re attacked by a Minotaur, who knocks Grover unconscious and grabs Sally, who disappears in a flash of gold light. Thinking his mother is dead, Percy attacks the Minotaur and kills it, then retreats into a nearby farmhouse. He wakes up three days later and finds he is at a place called Camp Half-Blood, a retreat for young demigods — and he is one of them.

Percy meets many other young demigods at the camp, including Luke Castellan, the son of Hermes; Annabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, and Clarisse La Rue, daughter of Ares. Percy’s powers continue to emerge, indicating he has links to the water. When a Hellhound sneaks into the camp and attacks him, he is protected and publicly claimed by the God of the seas, Poseidon. Mr. Brunner, who is actually Chiron the centaur, runs the camp; he summons Percy to tell him about a pact between the three elder Gods, Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades. They swore not to have any more children, and Percy is a violation of that oath. In addition, Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen, bringing the old Gods to the brink of war. Percy is tasked with finding the bolt, and asks Annabeth and Grover to accompany him on his quest.

They travel to the realm of Hades, whom Chiron thinks is the most likely culprit. They fight several mythical beasts along the way, but when they track Hades to LA, they find out that his Helm of Darkness, his equivalent symbol of power, has been taken as well. Hades accuses Percy of stealing the Helm and reveals that Percy’s mother is his hostage. He threatens to kill her, but they escape and discover that Ares has been manipulating them and is the actual thief. Percy defeats Ares in a duel. Hades, realizing that Percy wasn’t the thief, returns his mother safely to New York.

Percy takes the lightning bolt back to Zeus, who forgives Poseidon’s breaking of the oath and lets Percy go safely. He returns to camp and has fun for the rest of the summer. On the last day, he and Luke Castellan are hanging out, when Luke suddenly turns on him and attacks him. Luke reveals that he is the true thief, and both he and Ares were working for the same villain — Kronos, the Lord of the Titans and the predecessor to the reign of Zeus. Percy is shocked, but Luke explains his belief that the Gods must be overthrown because they’re poor leaders. He says it is time for the demigods to rise, and offers Percy the chance to join him. Percy refuses, and Luke attempts to kill him with a poisonous scorpion. Percy manages to kill the dangerous arachnid, but is poisoned in the process. He is in a coma for several days while Luke escapes, and when he wakes up he is given the choice to stay at the camp full-time with a lot of the other demigods, or return home to live with his mother for the school year. He chooses to go home—even though it will be more dangerous, he feels that he belongs in both worlds.

I am Annalia: Part Eleven

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(credit to @SirQuantum from DeviantArt for image)

I was stunned. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. Instead of the members shouting in shock, they went dead silent, making it harder for me to object. “But…” I began, practically whispering. “Tessa-”

“I’m sorry,” she quickly whispered.

“Tessa,” Viallanne boomed, raising her eyebrow. “Explain your reasoning for this.”

“Well,” Tessa thought about it for a moment. “You see, Liku is a leader of an element and it would be pointless for him to give his element to someone this early when he’s already so experienced. Since Liku cares about Annalia so much and the rest of you want R.J., getting rid of Annalia would prevent our secret being exposed, punish Liku in some sort of way, and we can choose R.J. instead. Besides, you know the pixies hate doing memory wipes. It nearly kills them, and there’s only a couple left.”

“Pixies?” I asked.

“Hush,” Viallanne hissed.

Tessa looked around awkwardly. “So…yeah.”

The Queen nodded slowly, seeming impressed. “I see your point.”

“Your Majesty, can’t we just bring R.J. as well and they can fight together? And then we can memory wipe them at the end?” Liku objected.

“That’s too risky,” Tessa countered. “One earthling is bad enough, but two? We’ll be exposed within minutes.”

“But…Tessa,” I began again. “We’ve been friends for a couple years now! A-And I already killed one Normwhaug, that means I can kill more, right?”

“The way you did it took a lot of energy. I mean, look what happened to you! You nearly died!” Tessa said.

“But she didn’t,” Viallanne grumbled.

“You’re right,” I quickly said, directed towards the Queen. If I was going to stay – more like stay alive – I needed to act like I deserved to stay. Viallanne widened her eyes at me. “A normal human wouldn’t be able to stand a Normwhaug, right? And survive?” I waited for an answer.

“I don’t suppose so,” she eventually replied, rubbing her chin. “But you’re the only human we’ve had that faced one, so that is just a guess,” she said, pointing at me.

“O-Okay. But what about back on earth? If you kill me, people are going to notice I’ll be gone, and they’ll be even more suspicious about everyone being frozen and my whereabouts. Not to mention my dad will be really mad at you if he finds out.”

Viallanne raised an eyebrow at me. “Your father is going to be mad? That’s a valid reason?”

“I-I guess. Anyway, I don’t care what you think, I’m not going to be killed, or memory wiped by, pixies, or whatever. I’m staying, and that’s that.”

“I told you she was stubborn,” Tessa muttered under her breath.

“Oh, don’t even Tessa,” I snapped at her.

“Me?” Tessa shot back.

“Yes! You! You’re the one that wants to kill me!

“It’s not you, it’s our world! I’m trying to do what’s best for the majority! So what if one life is lost, it’s better than thousands!”

“Why can’t you just believe in me? I was your second pick.”

“It’s more than just who was picked, it’s about character and bravery. Sure, you’re nice and daring sometimes, but for the sake of an entire dimension? We can’t be taking any risks, Annalia.”

“I can stay and fight, and if it doesn’t work I’ll fix-”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Tessa yelled. “You’re a mistake, Annalia. We chose R.J. for a reason and not you! It’s the only way! Someone is going to have to take the fall in the end, and I can’t let that be Liku! Sure, this will hurt Liku emotionally, but if you really want to help us, then…” Tessa stared down at the ground, trying to find what to say. “Then just die!” She yelled. Tessa released her fists, breathing hard. I wanted to flinch, but Tessa had practically sucked the life out of me.

I couldn’t seem to swallow down the second heart that was beating in my throat. No. I thought. I darted my eyes across the room. They were all either disgusted, shocked, or looking to Viallanne for her wisdom. Not Tessa. She…she wouldn’t. Something isn’t right, she- 

Someone grabbed my shoulder. I swiveled my head to see that it was Tessa, her gaze fixed firmly on Viallanne, as if trying to avoid any eye contact. “Well, your majesty?” She sputtered. Tessa looked back at Liku. She grabbed my shoulder harder. “If this is what it must come down to, then what’s your verdict?”

Rage fired up inside of me, outweighing the utter confusion of Tessa moving on so quickly. There’s no way that I can go down like this. I brushed Tessa’s hand off my shoulder and gave her the fiercest glare I could manage. “Tessa.” She examined me, like a dog not obeying its master. If you can change, then so can I.

Disgusted, I took a step away from her. I took in a shaky breath. I adjusted my yellow glasses and pushed them up my nose, trying to think of how I could express the complete and utter chaos my mind was in the state of in audible words.

So, I came up with what needed to be said. What I needed to hear. “I am not a mistake,” I calmly said. “I am Annalia.”

I took a careful step forward, hoping my glasses would make my glassy eyes look brave and not recovering from despair. “Viallanne,” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me before furrowing them.

“It’s ‘your majesty’ to you-”

“No, it’s not.” The room filled with an awkward mixture of silent tension and breaths of shock.

“Annalia! Please! Stop!” I heard someone whisper-scream from far back. Assuming it was Liku, I didn’t bother to turn my head.

“Viallanne,” I repeated. “I’m a human and I’m not even from here. That doesn’t grant you any power over me.”

“Actually-”

“You know what?” I interrupted Viallanne. “It doesn’t matter where I’m from or I am! I’m not going to allow someone as prissy and bossy as you simply kill me because I didn’t meet up to your standards!” I took another step, confidence bouncing underneath my feet. “I don’t care if you like it or not, but I have a purpose here. Whether it’s good or bad, just let it be! If you’re such a good ruler, then fix this problem without showing yourself as a killer!”

Viallanne shot up from her throne. “I refuse to take orders from a mistake!

“I am Annalia!” I screamed back. “I don’t care what you think or what anyone else thinks! You will not kill me. You will not send me back home with no memory or having done nothing. You will not harm Liku for believing in the greater good. You will not punish me or try to stop me! Because I am Annalia!” I walked up the stairs of her throne and stood on my toes to get up in her face.

“Your words are nothing compared to my power,” she hissed in my face.

“Please, my dog speaks more eloquently than thee,” I replied instinctively with a smirk. Viallanne’s face reddened so much you could mistake her for a tomato. I was beginning to grow satisfied. “So what if I’m clumsy? So what if I’m stubborn?” I looked back at Liku. His face was shaking side to side in his hands. Tessa looked like she was going to murder me if I took one step closer to the Queen.

The guards even started to approach me, but stopped. I looked back forward and saw Viallanne holding out a finger to them. I took in a deep breath before sealing my most likely terrible deal. “It doesn’t matter if you like me here or not,” I whispered. “I’m a human. I can either restore your world, or completely shatter it with a few simple steps, some words, and anyone ready to listen. Do I make myself clear?”

Viallanne stared at me for a good while. I started to replay everything I had just said and began to regret it more and more with every word. I was dead meat.

Eventually, Viallanne nudged me down the stairs and sat down in her throne. She tapped her fingers, seemingly in a villainous way, on the armrests of her throne, occasionally glancing at the torches next to her throne.

“Wow,” she eventually laughed. “You weren’t kidding when you said you were stubborn.” I remained silent. “Well, if this is what you wish for-” she pointed her finger firmly at me. “-then you may stay.”

I blinked. Is…is she kidding me? I literally defied all of her power and even used fandom references against her. I looked back at Tessa. She was dumb-founded. I made a mental note of adding her to my imaginary list of enemies. Liku looked like he was going to drop dead right there.

“She’s going to be okay?” Liku gasped.

“Hmm…” she tapped her finger on her chin. “No.”

“Huh?” I responded.

“What?” Liku said.

“You’re right, Annalia,” Viallanne began. “You are a human. But what humans don’t realize is how different Azudacluke is from your…earth,” she spat. She stood up and stared at the guards.

“Guards!” She barked. They stood up even straighter than before, if that was possible. “Open the doors and lead her way to the exit.” The guards opened the doors, and waited for me to come down and follow.

But I couldn’t. Not with her malicious smirk hovering over me, and her cold eyes sending shivers up my spine. “I’m being nice,” she hissed. I gulped. “After all, I am giving you a head start.”