Amulet of Scion

This is the second book I’ve read by J.T. Grobler, and she doesn’t disappoint with this one! The Amulet of Scion is not related to the first book at all, but it does take place in South Africa and incorporates a gripping mystery complete with action and intrigue which is similar to the first in style. Middle grade readers who enjoy a slightly suspenseful tale filled with unexpected twists and turns will be a good fit for this book! Please see my full review below.

Even the smallest of towns are not exempt from mysterious happenings. Twelve-year-old Bailee Paxton lives with her father in the small town of Langebaan, South Africa. Her mother’s death when she was five years old has left an indelible mark on Bailee; she has never even taken off the amulet her mother bequeathed to Bailee when she died. When Bailee makes the difficult decision to try to sell the trinket to procure money for her best friend Asher, though, an irreversible domino effect begins, linking seemingly disparate events into an unexpected whole.

This middle grade story is a suspenseful mystery that will have readers guessing at every turn. Written in the third person and focusing on Bailee, the story unfolds as Bailee discovers each new detail that appears around her. Everyone seems like a suspect, and it is difficult for readers and characters alike to recognize who is trustworthy and who is not. Bread crumbs introduced within the narrative ultimately resolve in a satisfying way, tying up many of the loose ends exposed throughout the story. Friendship and ingenuity win out, as they often do, and it is because Bailee and her friends Liezel and Asher work together that they are able to determine the truth of the mystery before time runs out.

Set in South Africa, this story incorporates many of the sights, sounds, behaviors, foods, and vernacular found there. Idiomatic phrases specific to this part of the world are found throughout the narrative, as are references to locales and creatures native to South Africa. A map at the beginning of the book orients readers to where important moments in the plot take place, but overall, the story is easy to follow even for those unfamiliar with Bailee’s hometown. This book has a noteworthy design because of its firm placement in South Africa, and readers from around the globe will appreciate this intriguing layer to the story.

Accessible and mysterious, this book will have readers attempting to solve the mystery alongside the characters themselves, though each new clue throws a wrinkle into those attempts. Light amounts of peril add intensity to the narrative and make it well suited to older middle grade readers. Interestingly, the primary protagonists are resolving many of their challenges without parental involvement, much like pre-teen readers are beginning to do themselves in their own lives. Familiar imperfections give each of the characters in this book a unique voice and role within the larger story. This is a compelling addition to libraries for middle grade readers who enjoy suspenseful mysteries.

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