Sophomore Emma Jones has been training at Burtonwood Academy for years, expecting to follow in her late mother's footsteps and become a dragon slayer. Being made a fairy slayer is not in her plans—fairies are harmless and lame ("...the worst she'd ever seen them do was change the food labels at the supermarket"), nearly impossible to kill, and they love taunting her. Worse, she's forced to train with Curtis, the cute guy who took her dragon job. As Emma tries to change the principal's mind about her specialty, an extremely dangerous seven-foot-tall fairy that only she can see shows up. Now Emma needs to figure out where the creature came from, what it wants, how she's going to kill it, and most of all, how it knew her mother. In a fun mashup of the modern and the magical, Ashby (Zombie Queen of Newbury High) creates nicely developed characters and supports them with strong plotting and zippy writing. Laced with humor, danger, and romance, this book will have readers smiling all the way to the last page. Ages 12–up. (June)
Children's Literature - Haley Maness
Emma is special: she is one of a select few who can see fantastical creatures, such as dragons and demons. Emma hopes to follow in her deceased mother's footsteps and become a dragon slayer, but to her dismay, she is assigned to slay fairies instead, the least dangerous of all of the fantastical creatures discovered by her school's hero, Sir Francis. When a huge evil fairy comes to her school, Emma is the only one who can see it, and she soon realizes why she was assigned to fairies. Although fairies are typically portrayed in literature as benign, the author does not portray fairies or any other imaginary creatures in a positive light. Younger readers who pick up this book will begin to get the impression that all fantastical creatures are evil beings and need to be destroyed, without a single exception. The important, enriching message of tolerance and acceptance important for middle and high schoolers to learn is totally lacking in this book. With its classification and generalization of various types of slayers at the school, the book acknowledges and enforces the foundation of stereotypes in society. Throughout the book, seemingly random phrases are italicized, which visually distracts the reader from the text. The main characters lack development; not until 100 pages into the story is one even physically described. Also, some characters are introduced with just a first name, as if they have been seen somewhere else in the story, and exit quickly. They are promptly forgotten about until casually mentioned chapters later. The author seems to be trying to cash in on the hype surrounding fantastical creatures in pop culture. Reviewer: Haley Maness
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Burtonwood Academy is a training ground for sight-gifted students to hone their skills as protectors in a sight-blind world. Now that Emma Jones is a sophomore, she is about to receive her designation, and she is sure that she will follow in her late mother's footsteps as a dragon slayer. So when Principal Kessler tells her that she has been chosen to slay fairies, she is mortified: Why rid the world of 10-inch beings whose worst offense seems to be switching food labels in grocery stores? The students assigned to the more ferocious elementals—ogres, goblins, harpies—find her assignment hilarious, and her humiliation intensifies when the wisecracking fairies who frequent the mall prove to be tougher to slay than she had anticipated. To top things off, Curtis Green is the new dragon designee. Sure he's cute, but doesn't he know that that was supposed to be her assignment? The two are thrown together when she spots what looks like a vicious dragon on Burtonwood's campus. Turns out that it's not a dragon, but a particularly nasty (and tall) breed of fairy. Emma and Curtis must resolve their differences long enough to get rid of the Darkhel before he opens the magical gate that lets in all the other evil forces. And if, in the process, a little romance sneaks in, what's the harm? The characters are nicely developed, the dialogue is fresh and engaging, the author's irreverent take on good versus evil will hook readers, and the satisfying plot twists will keep them involved till the end. A lighthearted story with plenty of substance.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Teens with a taste for the paranormal school story and a tolerance for raucous humor will be involved with and amused by this romantic fantasy.
Set in the same world as Ashby's first book, The Zombie Queen of Newbury High (2009), this companion deals with the students of Burtonwood, a school where the pupils aid the Department of Paranormal Affairs by killing demons, dragons and other monsters. Emma, a sophomore ready to receive her assignment, is stunned and furious when she is assigned to miniature, dress-mad, malicious fairies instead of the dragons she expectedto slay. Emma sulks and fumes until affairs become too dangerous to credibly insist that she doesn't need help. Then the story gains momentum, and the plot really clicks on. The exciting plot, humor throughout—often provided by the little fairies—and relatively innocent romance between characters will grab readers and keep them involved despite the initially weak worldbuilding. Kids who enjoyed Douglas Rees' Vampire High books will find the same qualities in this punnily titled outing.
Give this lighthearted and lightly satirical book to younger teens and those preteens who won't be put off by the length. (Paranormal adventure. 12 & up)