There’s something I’ve noticed about most middle grades books involving magic. They all involve a character who is completely unversed in the world of magic being introduced to said world. Harry Potter knows nothing about magic, and so he has a sense of wonder and amazement every time he sees something as simple as using magic to open a door. It makes sense, since we are looking through the character’s eyes and being introduced to magic along with him or her, but at the same time it was incredibly refreshing to read a book that features a protagonist who is already immersed in a world of magic.
Cindy Cipriano’s The Circle is the first book in a new series about a boy who comes from a family of fae. At the book’s opening, Calum Ranson has already had plenty of adventures, including one that caused his cousin Finley to go missing. Calum has been in the human world for some time, forbidden from travelling back to the “Otherworld,” essentially a magical fairy land.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but most of the book centers around Calum’s desire to find his cousin, while being forced to stay in the “Realm of Man.” He meets a new human friend (Laurel) who is more involved than he realizes, and also pulls in another cousin in his quest to save Finley.
A lot of what I liked about The Circle came from the richness of the culture and world of Calum’s people. Cipriano has thought this all through very well, and you get the sense that she isn’t just coming up with it all on the fly. At the same time, she also captures the essence of middle school and trying to figure out who you really are at that age. Middle school readers will see themselves in this book, even though there are fairies and magic.
One thing that was missing, at least for me, was a pronunciation guide. There were a lot of names that were hard to figure out, and it would have been nice to have a guide in the back to help out with that. All the same, I suspect that most readers will decide how they want to pronounce the names, and pronounce them that way, whether it’s correct or not. It took me years to learn the right way to pronounce Princess Eilonwy’s name from The Black Cauldron, but that didn’t take away anything from my enjoyment of that book, and it was much the same with this one.
I will warn you that the ending doesn’t really wrap things up very neatly, and in some ways presents more questions rather than answers, but I actually appreciated that. Cipriano could have given us an easy solution, and then brought on a new problem for the second book, but instead it seems that the problem will continue into the second book instead. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would certainly recommend it to a middle grades reader who enjoys a good Harry Potter-esque book.
**I was provided with a promotional advanced copy of this book to review by the author**