A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Broken Ground is the second book in the Fall of the Beasts spin-off series that picks up at the end of the original, highly popular Spirit Animals series, and it's similarly multimedia and multi-author. There's a website where young readers can choose their own spirit animals and character identities and enter codes from the books they read to unlock prizes and whatnot. Each book is by a different children's author, and books are released every few months, starting in August 2015. Both Spirit Animals series are set up for animal-loving tween readers just digging into fantasy books, and it's much easier to read Immortal Guardians if you've read the other series. The first book in this spin-off series, Immortal Guardians, offered more scares and creepiness than the last series. Book 2, Broken Ground, adds a level of intensity as hundreds of zombie-like creatures attack and their numbers grow as parasites travel under the skins of victims until they reach their foreheads. Main characters who normally don't kill (with arrows and knives) realize that's the only way to stop them and take down a number of the zombies. Other main characters are stuck underground battling more of those zombies, as well as spiders (one giant one), a fire, and a tentacled creature. Bravery and teamwork remain the strongest assets of the four diverse tween characters at the heart of the two series. This installment even offers wisdom about how standing up for others and making a difference aren't easy but are important.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Our four heroes with Great Beasts as spirit animals continue to aid the Greencloaks in finding other children who have bonded with Great Beasts before the evil Zerif does. Zerif continues to collect the Great Beasts and amass an army of humans, all infected by a parasitic worm that travels under the skin until it reaches a victim's forehead and takes over his or her mind. Abeke and Rollan head to the town of Stetriol by ship hoping to save a girl who bounded with Ninani the swan from Zerif's clutches. Meilin and Conor remain trapped under the Earth, desperate to reach the source of the parasitic infestation and Zerif's powers: a creature called the Wyrm that's eating away at the roots of the Evertree. For Conor it's a race against the parasite that's already under his skin and crawling toward his forehead. Can he be saved in time?
Is it any good?
Kudos to this many-author, many-book spin-off series for staying well-written, fresh, and exciting. Given the factors of a busy website and games and the nature of spin-off series in general, some expected BROKEN GROUND to be only average. In fact, much of the main Spirit Animals series leaned more toward average than riveting. But readers who make it through will be rewarded with Fall of the Beasts.
It's hard to believe author Victoria Schwab (The Archived and The Unbound) is writing about this world for the first time. She captures the main characters well, showing both their strengths and fears. The addition of red-caped, masked fighters adds a welcome layer of mystery. Depending on what kind of reader you are, the ending is either exasperating or thrilling: Things get worse for the characters, never better, and nothing is resolved. But both kinds of readers will doubtless be clamoring for the next in the series. Keep the good authors coming.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the scare factor here. It's larger than in the other books. Are some parts too much? Are there things that scare friends reading the series and not you or the other way around?
Meilin remembers the advice of her father: that if she wants to be a great leader, she must know when and how to follow. Why is this important?
Broken Ground ends on a cliffhanger with the main characters all in dire situations. Does it frustrate you as a reader to have very little resolved? Or is it an exciting way to work through this series? Or a bit of both?
- Author: Victoria Schwab
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic
- Publication date: December 22, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 9
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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