Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu is a diverse story that emphasizes friendship, loyalty, conservation, spirituality, family, and the past with how it shapes the present and ultimately the future. These characters are sweet, naive, sassy, brassy and full of themselves. There is magic, adventure, and a journey that is as familiar as it is fresh. The story is cozy as we know these people from other stories, but there are fresh eyes, experiences, and influences. The 10 to 14 range would be the best suited as readers, but a strong younger reader could. Just know your audience as there are fantasy situations that are on the thriller/thrilling side that might not be suited for a sensitive reader. Overall, however, it is a nicely balanced story, that while sometimes it can move a little slowly in places, it does keep a steady pace to the story.
My ARC had unfinished illustrations, so that took away from it for me. Still the completed ones that there were show that this story will be lushly presented. There will be light colors, and soft angles to show goodness. Then there will be darker colors, and harder lines for darkness. People and animals will be realistic, but have a slight cartoon element, without being cartoonish. It is easy to see this being made into a movie. Teny Issakhanian created illustrations that flow with the story, adding to it as needed.
The story is simple, Zuli, a young girl who has been raised in the haven where bird souls go after death, realizes that after the souls stop coming, she is the only one who can help find the answers. Going to the world of her own people (ones she has no knowledge of, or why they left her near the tree she calls home) she finds danger around every corner, but also new friends. But even friendships can be dangerous if the price is right. With her talking, guardian owl, Frowly, Zuli realizes that to find the answers of the present, she must explore the past.
And due to the ending, this will be at least a two book series.