First Second, 2013. 978-1596436190
Synopsis: Aliera is content, even if she just found out that she is the Defender of the mystical land of Faeire, her lab partner Avery is really a troll (and not just because he’s a boy), and in between dealing with that still has to turn her homework in on time and practice her fencing. When Avery won’t leave her alone, Aliera turns to her cousin and best friend Caroline for advice. What seems to be an innocent inquiry between friends gradually escalates into something much more dangerous, and Aliera is going to have to rely on Avery’s help, even if she doesn’t want it.
Why I picked it up: I pretty much loved Foiled and wanted more.
Why I finished it: I’ll be honest – I had to go back and read the first book again so that I could figure out what was going on, despite the fact that the first chapter is largely re-capping some of the events in Foiled. The beginning is somewhat angsty for my taste, but all the pieces started to fall together about the third chapter when Aliera goes to Caroline (aka Queen Furby in their role-playing world) for advice about what to do about the fact that Avery has become much more clingy of late. Yolen adds even more to the story and by the end the reader has realized that there are much larger things at stake for the Defender than even Aliera was initially lead to believe. There’s clearly much more to this Defender of Faeire gig than meets the eye. Cavallaro’s art is realistic and whimsical, defining and then blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. I like that the color scheme for the first volume is kept the second time around where we have the real world in blacks, whites, and greys (since Aliera is color-blind, remember) and becomes more vibrant as we move into the bits with the trolls and the little creatures that follow Aliera around the city. What draws me in though is the fact that Aliera is a strong female character, and I’ve talked about this before with other books that I have reviewed. Girls sometimes get stuck in this stigma of being sort of helpless and airheaded, and I like it when the main female character is someone that I can connect with on another level. The same goes for lead male characters as well – if I can’t really connect with the character, then I am going to have a harder time sympathizing with them or being inspired by their choices. Yolen and Cavallaro have crafted another gem of a book and I can only hope that the next part of the story is as imaginative and exciting.
Other related materials: Foiled by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Cardboard by Doug Tennapel; Ghostopolis by Doug Tennapel; Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young; Deliah Durk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated be Giovanni Rigano; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Squish books by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Astronaut Academy books by Dave Roman; Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke