A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Chantress touches on historical events, and kids will learn a bit about the history of the English throne in the mid-1660s. However, the book is set in an alternative timeline, so there are some significant differences; some of these are explained in the Author's Note. Kids also will learn briefly about the Tower of London and techniques used in professional singing. The etymology of chantress is given, which may spark interest in word origins generally.
A central analogy about the two kinds of magic ("wild" and "proven") shows that we need to find a balance between rigidly following rules and following our instincts. The shadowgrims present an analogy to the current debate about government surveillance and invasion of privacy. Heroine Lucy finds her inner strength when she decides that some kinds of safety are not worth having. Power corrupts, and the person to trust is not the one who takes it but the one who turns it down.
Positive Role Models
Heroine and narrator Lucy, who turns 16 during the course of the novel, models a lot of good behaviors. She's very devoted to her caretaker Norrie and willing to work hard and sacrifice for her out of love and gratitude. She's self-confident and independent, wanting to be responsible for herself. She's willing to work hard, drilling and practicing singing to exhaustion to advance her skills. She has an opportunity to seize control of the kingdom but turns it down, wanting only a peaceful life in which she's free to pursue her dreams. Nat, a boy a year or two older, is loyal, kind, protective, intellectually curious, and academically talented in many areas. Both Nat and Lucy are orphaned, and the two adults closest to them are kind and loving.
Violence & Scariness
Violent events in the past are mentioned and include a parent's death and the abuse Nat suffered as a child, but nothing is described. Fantasy violence takes the form of magical ravens called shadowgrims, and they are scary. They torment by entering the victim's mind and extracting thoughts. None of this is directly described, but the victims' feelings of pain and anguish are conveyed with scary imagery. A major but somewhat ambivalent character dies. Nat brandishes a knife at Lucy at their first meeting. Blood is used once as imagery ("savage mouths red as blood").
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lucy's feelings as she begins to notice her physical and emotional attraction to Nat are described. There's one romantic kiss, which isn't described.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Chantress is a fantasy that takes place in a world in which magical people and abilities are dying out. The book is set in London in the late 1660s in an alternative timeline, so historical places and people should be taken with a grain of salt. The fantasy violence is scary but bloodless -- kids able to handle Harry Potter will have no trouble here. Romance, in the form of growing attraction and one kiss, is budding and sweet.
Is It Any Good?
CHANTRESS is an entertaining fantasy with an engaging heroine who'll especially appeal to girls. Amy Butler Greenfield's writing is solid and at its best near the end, when the faster action and pacing make for exciting page turning. Older, more experienced readers will recognize a few clichés here and there. Good and bad characters are easy to recognize, and the outcome is predictable, which keeps the book firmly in the realm of an enjoyable genre piece particularly suited to tweens and younger teens.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.