Chantress, Book 1 Book Poster Image

Chantress, Book 1

Strong heroine + exciting finish = fine tween/teen fantasy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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. 


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").


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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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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. 

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What's the story?

Lucy was orphaned at age 8 when, as she was told, a shipwreck took her mother's life and stranded her and Norrie, her guardian, on a remote island. She doesn't know that Norrie is really trying to keep her and her magical chantress abilities safe from those who want to destroy them. However, the call of magic is too much for Lucy to ignore, and giving in to them transports her back to London and right into the heart of danger. As one of the last chantresses remaining, Lucy will need the help of Nat and the Invisible College as well as a lot of training from her godmother, Helaine, if she's going to put an end to the shadowgrims (magical ravens) for good.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why fantasy novels are so popular. Do the magical elements enhance the story?

  • Lucy decides that some kinds of safety are not worth having. What kinds of safety do you think she means? Do you agree?

  • The author changed some events of English history to tell the story she wanted to tell. Is it OK to do that, or should an author stick to the facts?

Book details

Author:Amy Butler Greenfield
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Great girl role models, History
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Margaret K. McElderry
Publication date:May 7, 2013
Number of pages:324
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Teen, 15 years old Written bysmudge1017 May 9, 2015


I didn't like this book very much and it was sloppily written. It was boring and I would not waist your time!