Review: The Magician's Tower by Shawn Thomas Odyssey

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Title: The Magician's Tower
Author: Shawn Thomas Odyssey
Genre: middle grade, fantasy
Series: Oona Crate #2
Pages: 304 (ARC edition)
Published: February 2013

Source: publishers for review via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

Held every five years, no one has ever completed the array of dangerous tasks (such as racing on flying carpets or defeating a horde of angry apes). As the competition commences, a case emerges. A rare punchbowl—one with unparalleled magical powers—has disappeared from the carnival surrounding the Magician’s Tower. If Oona can find the culprit, she could use the bowl to answer her question about her mother’s and sister’s tragic deaths so many years ago—was she really at fault?

Full of magic, mystery, and fun, THE MAGICIAN’S TOWER continues the wonderful adventures of Oona Crate.
Reviewed by Danielle.

I love Oona Crate.

What, you need more than that?

OK, I really love Oona Crate.

Oh fine, but you really could just skip the review and go buy a copy. It’s a much better use of your time.

The Magician’s Tower picks up three months after the end of The Wizard of Dark Street, one of my favorite 2013 reads. Thirteen year-old Oona has re-settled into her duties as the Wizard’s apprentice, as well as launching her own detective agency. Unfortunately, that agency isn’t doing so well. While her friends have been summering in New York, Oona has only had two small cases. Like, missing barrette small.

Disappointed, she looks forward to the Magician’s Tower contest, a quinquennial trial combining mental and physical tests culminating in a puzzle box that hasn’t been opened in 500 years. Her father made it to the top two when he competed and, when she was just a toddler, Oona promised him that someday she would win the contest in earnest. Since his death at the hands of the villainous Red Martin, it’s become even more important to her to be the first contest winner.

The book deals a lot with grief and loss, even more so than the first. Oona is finally moving on from the death of her parents, but that forward momentum carries a lot of guilt as well. It’s a major element in both the narration and in actual mystery, and as grief does, it makes for a darker and deeper story. One reveal near the end of the book is down-right cruel and I’ll admit I missed some of the whimsy.

The mystery of The Wizard of Dark Street was well constructed and the sequel is no different. The clues to play along at home are (mostly) presented directly in the narrative, giving readers every opportunity to solve the mystery first. The book is structured differently than the first, so the detective work didn’t feel like a retread. Because the story revolves around the contest, there are also a lot of riddles and word problems presented.

As for magic, there’s a lot more this time around. As Oona’s accepted that there’s nothing evil about her natural abilities, we’re able to explore more of magic system itself. Most spells require a conductor to direct them, such as a wand or the handle of a magnifying glass, but not all. Seeing the future requires a special artifact, but is possible. Uncle Alexander makes flowers bloom and close and Samuligan magically switches hats. And that’s all on top of the flying carpets and angry apes in summary. It’s very nice to see some world building and separate Dark Street from New York and London.

One final, minor spoiler for parents and guardians who care about romantic content:
Hold it, hold it, this is a kissing book! Well, two kisses, between Oona and Adler at the very end. They’re chaste and not what I would call inappropriate for a pair of thirteen year olds, (one is only on the cheek, even,) but I do know there are some who prefer no romance in their MG.

Shawn Thomas Odyssey has quickly become a must read author for me. Twice now he’s given me a vivid, fantastical take on London with a lovable main character. Oona continues to be logical, brave, and driven without becoming bossy or annoying. Side characters are nice, although still not as fleshed out as I’d like. I’m very excited to continue visiting Dark Street with him.

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