A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some references to Korean history and historical figures. Also plays with Korean mythology, mythological creatures, and other Korean cultural facts and figures.
Strong positive themes of friendship, sisterhood, belonging, identity, finding family, and sacrifice.
Positive Role Models
Riley gains in confidence as she gets closer to her goals. Despite growing up an outsider, she endures unfair treatment, but still has compassion for others. She's brave, persevering, and empathetic. She will not stop until she fixes things. Shows incredible sacrifice for the sake of her family, others, and the world.
Violence & Scariness
Some moments of peril. Various people try to tame a large bird-human monster; some cast fire spells and other magic. A middle grader also faces the bird-human monster and has a few close calls. Middle graders encounter a few spirits of human souls who have not yet fully crossed over to the afterlife. These ghost spirits might be a bit scary for younger readers. The essence of a middle grader is magically put into a tiny beating human heart, which is placed in a vial and decays over time. The main character also faces instances of prejudice, harassment, and unfair treatment because of being not genetically born a witch, like everyone else. She's often called things like, "fake witch" and "wannabe witch."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some middle graders tease a peer for having a crush on another student. One kind of magical clan are illusionists and control "beauty and influence." They are depicted as all very attractive people.
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The main character, who's adopted and not magical, is often called names like "wannabe witch" and "fake witch." There are also a few instances of "badass" (one), "butt," (a few) and "boob" (a few).
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Products & Purchases
References to Ralph Lauren Polo, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, BTS (the K-Pop band), Lotte World (in Seoul), Nutella, Cheetos, and the Fortnite video game.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Last Fallen Star is the first book in the Gifted Clans series by Graci Kim. It's a middle grade fantasy adventure that merges Korean mythology and folklore with a modern setting -- in Los Angeles' Koreatown. It stars Riley, an adopted and non-magical younger sister who's about to turn 13. She's grown up an outsider -- the metaphor of difference and how it has impacted her sense of identity and belonging is strong. She's endured lots of unfair treatment because of being different, including being called names and not being considered for things (invisibility). Riley's journey is all about finding out what family, sisterhood, friendship, and identity mean. Riley's world is full of cool elemental magic, mysterious creatures, ghosts, and spirits, and a worthy cause to fight for. Some encounters with scorned spirits who haven't fully crossed over into the afterlife might be scary for younger readers, as might the tiny beating human heart in a vial that is a magical representation of Riley's sister, Hattie. Language includes one "badass" and a few instances of "butt" and "boob." Some middle graders tease a peer for having a crush on another student.
Is It Any Good?
This middle grade fantasy novel is fun, well-told, and inspiring. The Last Fallen Star features an ambitious fantasy world layered on top of a modern setting, magic, spells, cool creatures, celestial goddesses, and a fantastic girl hero to root for. The story combines Korean history, myth, and folklore with a modern world of magic, and each witch -- male or female -- harnesses their magic in different ways. But like so many heroes before her, Riley is different. Adopted and non-magical, she has felt like she doesn't belong her entire life. Her journey of identity and belonging will speak to many Asian American kids (and many kids generally) who feel similar to Riley because of being Asian or in any other way "different." The story is slow to find its feet, but once it does, hold on. Once Riley's journey properly begins, this book is hard to put down. By the end of her journey, Riley will redefine what it means to be family, to belong, and to be a hero. The story packs a decent emotional punch as well.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Strong Female Characters
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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