Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in … Arizona.
Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind — she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.
Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.
Genre(s): YA, Fantasy
Series: A Hundred Names for Magic #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 2, 2020
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Representation: (click to show)
biracial Filipino-Scottish-American MC [Tala], gay MC [Alex], Jewish MC [Zoe], Japanese-English MC [Ken], nonbinary Chinese-Canadian MC [Loki], Latino major character [Cole], Black-coded secondary character [Nya], Filipino supporting cast, mentioned M/M relationships [Loki’s dads, Alex & Locksley], diverse secondary & minor characters
Content warnings: (click to show)
bullying, queerphobia (incl. slurs), racism, precanon parent deaths, deportations, (descriptions of) detention centers, being outed, implied pedophilia & rape, past child abuse, suicidal ideation, past genocide, death of children, mention of hunting (dragons)
As always, Chupeco’s worldbuilding is top-notch. I absolutely love how many sources it draws from — including Avalon, Wonderland, the Snow Queen fairytale, Journey to the West, and many more! — and I’m really impressed by how seamlessly they’re woven together, creating a multifaceted, complex fantasy setting that inspires the imagination without overwhelming the reader.
Portraying teenagers, their relationships, and teen culture is always a tricky endeavor, but I think it’s done really well here. Slang and modern language quirks (such as Caps For Emphasis) are used sparingly. There’s banter, but also plenty of moments of sincerity and seriousness. Diversity (of ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, etc.) is acknowledged and accepted. The pop-culture references are spaced out (and do not include Harry Potter). Emotions get messy, communication is imperfect, yet it never feels like angst for the sake of angst or contrived Character Growth.
Families — biological, extended, and adoptive — also play a significant role, which I really appreciate. While the found family vibes are strong, we also get to see a delightful Filipino community gather to enjoy food and to celebrate and to fight. Literally-kickass elders aren’t at all common in the YA landscape, which is a shame because they are incredible.
Admittedly it can be a bit difficult at first to remember which character is which, as so many of them are introduced in quick succession. I did feel that the Banders in particular could be better differentiated; I resorted to memorizing each by weapon of choice and role on the team since these were, at least initially, the most contextually relevant. (Though that’s also probably because there seem to be more action/fight scenes than heart-to-heart talks.) Of course, having a relatively large central cast is inherently challenging for both writer and reader.
The plot itself is also engaging but not exhausting. I think it definitely helps that there’s only one central storyline, balancing out how much is going on in other narrative aspects (as detailed above). Which is not to say that it’s boring or flat or predictable — there’s ups and downs, ongoing quests/prophecies, well-timed reveals, and of course moments of comedic relief.
All said, this might be my favorite Rin Chupeco series thus far. I am so so so thankful that it has finally gotten to be published and I am incredibly excited to see how the series progresses.
Conversion: 12.9 / 15 = 4.5 stars
Rating Details: (click to show)
Prose: 6 / 10
Characters & Relationships: 8 / 10
Emotional Impact: 9 / 10
Development / Flow: 9 / 10
Setting: 10 / 10
Diversity & Social Themes: 5 / 5
Originality / Trope Execution: 4 / 5
Rereadability: 5 / 5
Memorability: 4 / 5