Most of us have heard of Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies), but did you know she has a sister who writes perfect YA and middle-grade novels? You haven’t? Well, I’m not surprised, because no one I’ve talked to has ever read any of Jaclyn Moriarty’s Australian school YA novels (The Year of Secret Assignments, Feeling Sorry For Celia, etc) or her fantasy novels (The Colors of Madeline series and others). But I am here as a lone voice in the book wilderness, having just read another one of her wonderful books, crying out to have another person read these.
Esther and her sisters head back to boarding school after summer break, and she’s excited to see her two best friends and settle back into school. Only her friends have left for other schools, and there are two new girls and a new 6th grade teacher to deal with. Everyone loves Mrs. Pollack, even Esther, but there’s something mean about the way she always makes jokes at their expense, and even though Esther always got good grades and loves to write, she gets a C- on all her assignments now. Combine this with evil Shadow Mages, something going terribly wrong with the ocean, and Esther’s mother always forgetting about her, and she’s is in for a tough year.
The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst works perfectly well as a standalone novel. Apparently it’s the third book in her middle-grade series, which now I immediately have to go and read, but I honestly didn’t notice. It did help me to have some vague knowledge of the world from reading her other books, but it’s really not required. I think this is technically being marketed as a middle-grade novel (The UK page for the book says 10-14), but it’s definitely readable by teens or adults (like me). It deals with some serious subjects and Moriarty’s skill with emotion is such that this is a stressful read, albeit very rewarding. I got so stressed at what Esther was going through that I had to skip to the end to make sure I could handle it. I really love the style that she writes in — lots of asides, letters/notes, and a sort of frenetic pace that I enjoy. Esther is also a character I related a lot to, and I felt that her character arc was very satisfying.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes fantasy or just reading! It’s a great book!
Warnings for: bullying, misuse of power, trauma, children being mistreated, a child having to go through intense pain