Carolyn Cushman Reviews Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey and Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

Mercedes Lackey, Eye Spy (DAW 978-0-7564-1320-0, $27.00, 326pp, hc) July 2019. Cover by Jody Lee.

The latest book in the Valdemar series and the second volume in the Family Spy series turns to young Abidela (Abi), daughter of the Herald Spy Mags and King’s Own Herald Amily. She’s grown up around the court and Heralds, is friends with the young royals, and knows lots of spy tricks, but doesn’t seem to have any of the special Gifts the Heralds and other get – until one day she somehow knows a bridge is about to collapse and manages to warn people in time. It turns out she has a talent for reading stress in things like build­ings and bridges, something that could be useful to builders – or spies looking for hidden rooms and such – so she gets shifted to the Artificers for training. She does well, despite unpleasant encounters with an obnoxious rich student and his father. Her spy skills and connections save the day – until she joins a mission to help some villages just outside Valdemar’s borders. There she encounters real magic for the first time and uncovers devious efforts to keep Valdemar from making any kind of alliance. There are some tense moments, but mostly Abi has an easy time of it, without the heavy angst or self-doubt so many of Lackey’s young heroes face. Even the ultimate villain turns out to be a paper tiger, making this an entertaining but rather lightweight installment in the series.

Rajani LaRocca, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yel­low Jacket 978-1-4998-0888-9, $16.99, 332pp, hc) June 2019. Cover by Rachel Suggs.

This fun middle-grade fantasy novel, a very promising debut, is a sweet mixture of A Mid­summer Night’s Dream and a baking contest for kids. Eleven-year-old Mimi feels like a failure next to her older, terribly talented siblings, but one thing she can do is bake. With the help of her dad, a food writer with talented tastebuds, she’s sure she can win the contest at the new While Away Café. A new friend she meets in the woods helps, and a strange book on cooking with plants gives her ideas that seem, well, magical, but things start to go wrong: her dad suddenly turns into an indiscriminate glutton, her sisters fight constantly about boys, and her brother gets a little strange about the play he’s in. Fortunately, Mimi perseveres, and with a little inspiration from her mother’s Indian cooking manages to save the day from some manipulative and familiar fairies. Serious Shakespeare fans might end up shaking their heads at some of the plot twists, but LaRocca mixes things up enough to amuse a wide range of ages, and Mimi’s cooking abilities are quite convincing. (For those hungering for her concoc­tions, three recipes are included.)

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the August 2019 issue of Locus.

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