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Erin Lucero
Quest for the Phoenix
Erin Lucero, author

Middle Grade; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

When Tori saw what she thought was a garden gnome in her backyard, little did she guess the adventures that would await her. Armed with kindness, compassion, and a few funny jokes, this young girl sets out on the quest of a lifetime – to help the magical phoenix be reborn, and prevent the world from falling into darkness. She travels underground rivers, meets magical creatures, and overcomes great obstacles in her quest for the phoenix. Along the way, Tori will also discover just how much magic she has inside herself, and if a single young girl can save the entire world.
Lucero (author of AYNI: Finding Love, Balance & Harmony, for Ourselves, for the World) explores the hero’s journey with ten-year-old Tori, a contemporary kid who discovers, after a surprise encounter with a gnome who calls her “lassie,” that she shares a lineage with a nomadic band called the Travelers and carries in her blood a deep connection to Earth magic. A powerful, red-feathered firebird has taken refuge in Castle Billadoon in Scotland, ancestral home of Tori’s family. The phoenix hopes to nest safely here, to safeguard her magical feathers, until the chosen one, Tori, can light the fire for the bird to be reborn.

Lucero finds fresh excitement in a chosen-one scenario as Malcolm, the red-hatted gnome from the “deep, ancient forests in the old country,” explains that only Tori, a descendant of a Celtic priestess, druids, and shamans, can save the phoenix and stop the world from plunging into darkness. It’s not just her ancestry that makes Tori suitable for heroics: only the pure of heart can light the sacred fire, and humans, as they age, tend to find their souls “corrupted.” But Tori, relatably, is no ready-born hero. She has no magical skills and no idea how to help, even lacking the assertiveness needed to ride her family’s horses, Flash and Hans. That means it’s especially exciting when, after a night of restless dreams filled with sword-bearers eager to hurt the phoenix and “volcanoes spewing dark smoke,” Tori wakes up “slick with sweat” ready to concoct a plan to skip summer camp and start the journey through a bizarre underworld.

The Quest for the Phoenix celebrates Tori’s open-heartedness, as she learns that befriending creatures like fairies, spirits, and gallywomps helps her forward on her journey. Choosing love and support over fear proves the key to her quest. That lesson will hearten the middle grade readers the novel is targeted to, but the story will also appeal to fantasy-loving adults who relish stories of believing in love and making friends of those perceived to be different.

Takeaway: Fun frolic of a young girl, gnomes, and a hero’s journey celebrating friendship.

Comparable Titles: Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe, David Farr’s The Book of Stolen Dreams.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A