Anya and the Nightingale
Anya and her “foolish” friend Ivan are back in Book 2, one year after series debut Anya and the Dragon, with another adventure. This time Anya, Ivan, and Håkon, the magical dragon, set off on a secret journey to bring Anya’s father home from war. Soon into their adventure, the trio is warned, “The nightingale makes them bleed, makes them pay,” but they cannot make sense of the warning. How could such a tiny bird be dangerous? Outside Kiev they encounter a monster —a boy with gold skin and a powerful magic—lurking in the forest and terrorizing travelers. After being saved by a band of soldiers led by the tsar’s daughter, Princess Vasilisa, Anya promises she, Ivan and Håkon will capture the Nightingale. But they quickly learn the Nightingale is not a monster to be feared. A greater danger lurks beneath the city of Kiev.
Anya is a delightful young girl filled with pluck, ingenuity, and loyalty, and she is a refreshing Jewish character. Her search for her faith is genuine, slipping nicely into an adventure story without overwhelming it. The secondary characters are equally as charming and fun. The plot, though perhaps a bit slow in the beginning, takes off in a bounding ride of twists and turns sure to please middle-grade readers. This reviewer’s only criticism is in the grounding of the story. This is the second book in a series, and if a reader is not familiar (as this reader is not) with the world-building presumably established in Book 1, it may be difficult to sink into the rules of magic, the setting, or time period—which is supposed to be 10th-century Kievan Rus’. Fans of Anya and the Dragon are sure to be pleased.