I’ve always loved the idea of going on a quest, which is probably why I’ve enjoyed embarking upon them through books. Even in moments of peril, the characters learn important lessons that make them better, stronger people moving forward. Like in all aspects of life, teamwork is critical to success, and stories that showcase the strengths of everyone in the collective unit are particularly engaging for me. The Elixir Chronicles series by Katie L. Carroll is one that, while focusing on a primary protagonist, enchantingly incorporates the strengths of others as the hero advances toward her goal.
Elixir Bound is the first novel in this series and introduces readers to Katora Kase and her family and friends. An unexpected snow storm threatens her family’s crop of essenberries, which could adversely affect many things in the coming months. Instead of staying to restore the farm, however, Katora is sent with a select few companions to retrieve a fabled flower from the depths of Faway Forest. Danger and love surround her along her journey, and months pass before Katora truly realizes her destiny. Please see my full review here.
Elixir Saved is the second installment in this series, and is markedly longer than book one. This story begins two years after Katora’s journey from the first book ends, and character relationships have grown and shifted in that time. When a seemingly rogue lightning strike destroys Katora’s sister Kylene’s performance stage one day, an important message is transmitted that initiates another quest—this time to combat the forces of evil. Through three strong and important characters’ perspectives, this story gives readers deeper insight into the thoughts and beliefs of the residents of the Great Peninsula. Please see my full review here.
Both books begin with a map of the Great Peninsula, orienting readers to this fantasy locale and providing a point to reference throughout the narratives. After reading book one, I felt completely at home with the Great Peninsula and appreciated the map appearing in book two because the travelers venture in a new direction in that story. The world building is well done in both, and though the characters live in a land that is different from our own, their thoughts, beliefs, sorrows, and joys remain familiar.
I especially appreciate the way these books discuss age; instead of referencing specific numbers, there are tiers of age that differentiate people over time. While this was initially challenging for me, by the end I realized that often age is just a number and perhaps a system like this would be more useful when determining when people are prepared for more mature experiences in life. I suppose that would come with its own challenges, but this was intriguing nonetheless.
Gender and societal stereotypes are challenged by the characters in these stories by their demeanor and actions rather than through overt conversations. Often, women are strong leaders who are driven to guide others to battle while men are more empathetic and romantic, reversing traditional expectations. Alongside this, sisgender relationships remain the primary focus within the narratives, though mentions of same-sex couples are included, as well. There are many layers within this magical story, and readers will appreciate the inclusion of a variety of perspectives within this series.
Both stories end in satisfying ways, tying up most loose ends while still offering the possibility for a subsequent installment. I love this because it allows me to breathe and absorb the stories without feeling compelled to dive directly into the next novel. Young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventures with strong human elements will fall for Katora and her family through these stories and will eagerly anticipate more adventures to come.
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