A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some dialogue in Spanish and Spanglish. Lots of English vocabulary-building words, especially as some characters really love fancy speeches.
Strong messages of family, friendship, courage, perseverance, teamwork. Also standing up for your beliefs even when your loved ones disagree. Past kind deeds bring rewards. "There's no rush, remember that. In quests, yes. En amor, no." "If we see something unjust happening, like this, it's our duty as heroes to fix it."
Positive Role Models
Lots of scary and sad hallucinations (her sick mom calling out for her, her friends sneering behind her back) come along to discourage Filomena, but she perseveres, recognizes what's going on, and sticks to her quest. Her friends always have her back, and often the ability to say or do just the right thing to save the day. Olga the ogress, who's doing her best to kill Filomena's mom back in the mortal world, is a murderous and evil presence throughout.
King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot appear here—as a guy named Arturo, and two women, Gwen and Lance, who are romantic partners and run an inn. They speak English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Oz's Glinda the Good Witch appears here as Gita and wears a sparkly hijab; the Wicked Witch of the West is named Wahida and is persuaded to declare a truce with the kids because there are bigger issues at stake. Merlin the wizard is actually Marlon, a little Black kid who in reality is 1,100 years old.
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Violence & Scariness
In a world that mixes Camelot and Oz, Filomena and her friends slay the Witch of the East and take her ruby slippers. As their quest continues, they encounter scary tunnels, flying monkeys, giant spiders, the Wicked Witch of the West, armed ogres, and other situations that call for hacking and slashing. In the mortal world, Olga the ogress has poisoned Filomena's mom, who is now dying. A spell requires a character's blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jack (13) and Filomena (12) admit they're in love and share a few sweet kisses along with a lot of anxiety. A younger kid thinks they're gross. In the future, a kid character, now an adult, has a boyfriend who spends the night at her place.
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"Badass" used once.
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Products & Purchases
In the mortal world, a character looks up a place in her maps app, while a character from Never After marvels that that feature would be really handy on quests.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Missing Sword is the fourth installment in The Chronicles of Never After series by Melissa de la Cruz, which features the adventures of 12-year-old Filomena Jefferson-Cho, adopted child and middle-school outcast in North Pasadena, near Los Angeles, who discovered in earlier books that she's actually a lost princess from the world of her favorite fairy tales, and has now been crowned queen. This quest finds Filomena's human mom dying, poisoned by Olga the ogress who's been behind most of the evil from the beginning. The quest to save her takes Filomena and her friends on a quest to a world that combines Oz and Camelot, in search of King Arthur's sword, Excalibur. Violence includes a witch slaying in self-defense, scary tunnels, armed ogres, flying monkeys, and other perils. Twelve-year-old Filomena and 13-year-old Jack finally admit they love each other and share a few sweet kisses, but there are challenges ahead. Family and friendship are strong themes, characters feel and express relatable emotions, and each one's individual talents often prove just what's needed in the moment.
Is It Any Good?
The dauntless League of Seven races to Camelot—or is it Oz?—to find Excalibur, the only thing that will save 12-year-old Filomena's dying mom from a murderous ogress bent on world domination. Young love is in bloom, but the quest for The Missing Sword is front and center as our heroes slay the Witch of the East, take the ruby slippers, and try to make sense of it all. Melissa de la Cruz delivers the expected adventure and takes her young characters through perilous, poignant, and hilarious moments en route to a conclusion that sets up a cosmic conflict and an impossible choice in the next book.
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.