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Bern Roger
Shadows on the School Grounds
B. C. Roger, author

Miona's furry master sends her to an exclusive school where she quickly gets in trouble with the class bully and his aristocrat cohorts. Soon she steps into the middle of a political conspiracy that could wreck a fragile peace between the planet’s main species. To get out of it alive, she'll need all her wits and sword fighting skills, help from her friends, and also a hidden, very special talent.

Miona Fortvallor may be a collared human slave in a world filled with feline masters, but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming of freedom. Roger’s sprawling (A New Day) fantasy adventure, the first book in the A Charmers' World series, introduces readers to Miona’s world where three species co-exist: humans, a catlike ruling race known as the Trowans, and a reptilian species called the Srilisses. The Trowans and Srilisses have just recently re-established diplomatic relations, and as Miona navigates her life as a slave, she finds herself wrapped up in a dangerous mystery involving her beloved Srilissi teacher. Now, she must risk her own safety to help another.

Roger’s creative and imaginative world invites readers to step into an alternate reality. Miona struggles to stay out of trouble as school bullies target and torment her, and there are several incidents where her physical safety is at risk at the hands of these aggressors. Though these plot points at times feel redundant, each instance helps build character, shoring up Miona’s resilience and revealing her potential to overcome obstacles, an important tool when she gets involved in a mystery that threatens her life and the safety of her friends and teacher. Unfortunately, despite the novel’s length, the story doesn’t build up the suspense readers might hope for in a tale of hoping for freedom, though Shadows on School Grounds does hint at some welcome tension to be explored later in the series.

Readers will appreciate Roger’s fantastical world building and the excitement and mystery of a feline-dominated society. Younger readers will enjoy Miona’s sword skills and defiance in the face of bullies, but much of the action stays on the surface instead of digging deeper into Miona’s sentiments. Those looking for a YA fantasy with a young female lead and a well-developed world will enjoy this selection.

Takeaway: Readers looking for a young adult fantasy with strong world building will enjoy this mystery adventure.

Great for fans of: Lloyd Alexander, Erin Hunt’s Warrior Cats, Diana Wynne Jones.

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