Series: Thrones and Bones #2
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on July 14th, 2015
Genres: fantasy, middle grade
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From the author of Frostborn comes Book 2 in the acclaimed Thrones and Bones fantasy-adventure trilogy for fans of Lloyd Alexander and Brandon Mull.
Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves.
Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be.
Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly?
The novel includes instructions for playing the board game Charioteers. Visit ThronesandBones.com for additional games, maps, character profiles, and more!
I liked Frostborn but I didn’t love it. I was definitely motivated to continue the series on to Nightborn, however. I’m reading a lot of middle grade this year because I think it’s underappreciated and not blogged about enough, for one, but also because I’m quite fond of Thianna, the half human, half frost giant girl.
And I had no idea exactly how much I was rooting for her until I picked up book two of this Norse-inspired series. (Sidenote: I don’t know why Lyn isn’t reading this yet.) I just really want her to get her happy ending. I want her to find the answers that she seeks so she can be content with who she is. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not know where you came from, and I know LOTS of kids deal with that issue so maybe they will find something of themselves in Thianna. I mean, Karn is great, and I know boys are going to really like him and see themselves in his shoes, but I don’t feel he is as dynamic, as individual as Thianna is.
But while we are on the subject of characters, let’s talk about the elves. There is a new race of characters that are introduced in Nightborn, and they are the dark elves. The book opens with a very exciting contest as well as an introduction to a new character: Desstra. She’s a dark elf trying to graduate and become one of the Underhand, and it’s still a little unclear as to what their ultimate goal is, but I do know that they hate the above-grounders. You see, the dark elves live in underground caverns, they have pale skin, dark hair and dark eyes, and they can see in the dark without the aid of a light. There comes a point in the book when Desstra is in disguise, playing the part of a wood elf, and I was completely flabbergasted by how unobservant Karn was. Desstra was leaving signs all over the place that she was not who she said she was and Karn missed them all. I really hope he starts to get smarter as his arc progresses because the boy is DUMB, and it’s a wonder that he hasn’t tripped over a log and died yet. Not that I don’t appreciate Thianna for constantly saving his ass, and he DID get a little better in this book as he had to do some brave things on his own, but still.
Okay, anyway. There are more characters I should discuss, like Orm, the amazing, curmudgeonly dragon, or Tanthal, Desstras supervisor/teammate, but there are other things I need to talk about before I wrap this up, so let’s move on.
The writing is great. Somehow I always want a little more detail, a little more emotional resonance in the story, but by the end I am satisfied. It’s a little lacking in imagery, and though there are maps at the beginning, I do wish the settings were a bit more vivid. But that’s about the only negative thing I can say. As far as emotional resonance, I just want to feel my heartstrings pulled. I want to be angry, or sad, or happy, or anything, but mostly I just feel like I am having fun while reading these. Which is fine, but I have had middle grade books make me feel some deep emotions before, so I know it can happen. I’m still thinking it might, because as the series progresses and I get to know the characters better, I’m betting there’s a chance it will get me in the end. So we’ll see.
When I read Frostborn, there were parts of the novel that were a bit slow for me, mostly during the middle. But Nightborn is paced much better. I never felt bored, there was always something going on, and the story itself just interested me more this time around. Which, since this is a sequel review, it’s tough to talk about without spoilers, but the dark elf plot interested me more, as did their arrival in a couple new cities. I also loved the new game we were introduced to, and I can’t wait to see what kind of board game the author dreams up next since it seems like one is coming with every new book. Speaking of which, how many books is this series going to be? I wish I knew! Not that it matters, I mean I would still read it if it was twelve, but it’s nice to know.
Anyway, yes, I recommend this middle grade series. It’s fun, engaging, and the characters are great. The world-building is well thought out and though it’s not particularly different than lots of other fantasies out there, it’s getting more detailed with each book, which I love. These books are quick reads and a great way to spend a few hours of fun. I’m hooked!