Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Today Caramel reviews Dragon on Trial, the second book of The Menagerie series written by Tui Sutherland, the author of Caramel’s beloved Wings of Fire series, and her sister Kari Sutherland. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, you read this book really fast!

Caramel: Yes, I did.

S: Was it exciting?

C: Yes.

S: So will you tell us about it?

C: Yes, of course!

S: Do tell!

C: This book starts exactly where the last book, The Menagerie, ended. That book ended with the disappearance of Pelly, the golden egg laying goose. And in this book, the heroes, Logan, Zoe, and Blue, try to find out who killed Pelly.

S: Wait, is Pelly dead?

C: Well, it looks like that, at least in the beginning. But —

S: Wait, don’t tell. I still have not read this one, and I really want to.

C: Yes, you should read it. It is just as exciting as the first book.

S: I found the first book really fun and full of curious things. And a lot of mysteries. Is this one as good as that book?

C: Yes. And there are new magical mythical creatures that we meet, and they are awesome!

S: Can you name one?

C: We finally see and meet the dragons!

S: That’s cool. I know you like dragons a lot. Are the dragons of this book similar to any other dragons we met in any other book?

C: Not really. Scratch is a Western dragon and he can fly and he is big and long, and breathes fire. And all clues point to him being guilty of the death of the goose.

S: I see. So he is the “dragon on trial” that is mentioned in the title of the book. And as usual, things are not what they seem, right?

C: Exactly!

Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

S: So let us move a bit away from the plot so you don’t give away too much by mistake.

C: Okay.

S: Instead maybe we can talk about the characters. Other than the three friends Logan, Zoe, and Blue, do we meet some new important characters?

C: Well, not really. We do get to see the SNAPA agents a few more times. SNAPA stands for SuperNatural Animals Protection Agency.

S: Cool, kind of like a mixture of EPA and the CIA. Right?

C: Yeah, I guess. They are a government agency, trying to protect the mythical animals and they are pretty secretive.

S: Who was your favorite person in this book?

C: My favorite is still Squarp; that is the baby griffin cub that Logan found in his room in the first book.

S: Why is that?

C: Because he is a cute little baby animal!

S: And you are a cute little baby animal, too, so it makes total sense you would like him. He is also very playful and funny; I liked him too, in the first book.

C: You will like him in the second book too!

S: Okay, I think I am quite ready to begin reading the book. How about you? Are you itching to read the third book?

C: Yes!

S: Does this second book also end with a cliffhanger?

C: Kind of. The book ends with them finding out something very serious, a big danger for the menagerie.

S: I can’t wait to find out more! So let us wrap this up so we can both get reading. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel loved reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and he cannot wait to get started on the third and last book of the series. Stay tuned!
Caramel loved reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and he cannot wait to get started on the third and last book of the series. Stay tuned!

Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Readers of this blog know that Caramel is a big fan of Tui Sutherland and her Wings of Fire series. He has already read and reviewed all fifteen books! (He reviewed the fifteenth book, The Flames of Hope, only a couple weeks ago; check it out for links to his reviews of the earlier books.) Today he reviews the first book of another series from Tui Sutherland, cowritten by her sister Kari Sutherland: The Menagerie. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

Sprinkles: I know you had been a bit reluctant to read this book Caramel. Can you explain why to our readers?

Caramel: I really would rather not. But I know you really want me to. So okay, I’ll tell. I felt that Tui Sutherland means Wings of Fire and dragons, and I did not want to read a different story by her that I would not really like too much and get disappointed.

S: I can totally understand that. That’s why I read this before you and I was quite convinced you would actually enjoy it.

C: I think you were right. Now I need to read the next book.

S: Wait, I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but then you did like it a lot! That makes me happy. So okay, I promise we will get our paws on the next two books soon, because I too want to know what will happen next. But before that, why don’t you tell our readers what the book is about?

C: It’s about this boy named Logan Wilde who has just moved to Xanadu, Wyoming. He discovers a griffin cub in his room and he realizes that he can hear the cub’s thoughts in his mind and communicate with him.

S: That must be so exciting, right? Finding your own magical mythical beast in your room?

C: Yeah. And being able to understand it when noone else can!

S: So Logan is special somehow?

C: Yes, but we don’t know for a long time why.

S: Alright, so tell us a bit more about the story. Where does this griffin cub come from?

C: The Menagerie.

S: Yes, that is the title of the book.

C: And it’s the name of the place where the cub was living with his five siblings and parents. And a whole lot of other mythical magical creatures, like a phoenix and a golden-egg-laying goose, and so on and so forth.

S: Hmm, so this Menagerie is kind of like a zoo for weird mythical animals, right?

C: Well, it is more like a nature reserve. Because it is not open to visitors. And most people do not know about the place because it is secret.

S: I can see why you would like to keep such a place a secret. Can you imagine what it would be like if people knew there was this place where you could find a golden-egg-laying goose? Or a phoenix? It could get really dangerous for the animals really fast.

C: Right. There is already only one phoenix left in the whole world, and it would be on the wish list of all sorts of people.

Caramel is reading The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

S: So this book is about Logan coming to learn about the Menagerie?

C: Practically. But the one cub in his room is not the only one which ran away. All six siblings escaped and the main story is all about Logan and his friends trying to find all the cubs.

S: And along the way, Logan becomes good friends with the girl and the boy who live in the Menagerie, right?

C: Yes, their names are Zoe and Blue. They are all in seventh grade, with Logan.

S: And then there is the mystery about Logan’s mom?

C: Yes. As it turns out Logan’s mom is —

S: Caramel! You can’t give it away!

C: I was not going to tell anyway. But so she is missing and Logan and his dad just moved to Wyoming to find her.

S: And Logan has no idea why Wyoming should be where his mom would be?

C: No, that is not true. She sent them a postcard from there saying she was not going to come back home. They were living in Chicago, and then they moved all the way out west to Wyoming.

S: Yes, I found that the authors blended the two stories together really well. Logan finding out about the Menagerie and finding out more about his missing mom.

C: Yes, but now we need to read the next book!

S: I agree. But before that, maybe you can tell our readers about the segment in the back of the book about mythical creatures?

C: Sure. It’s titled Camp Underpaw’s Guide to Mythical Creatures. And it lists and describes a lot of strange mythical creatures. Several of them show up in this book. And here is my favorite: Zaratan. It is apparently a “turtle the size of a small island, and yet shockingly difficult to track”.

S: That is really funny Caramel! I knew you would love that list of mythical creatures! You have created your own book of mythical creatures before. And both you and Marshmallow enjoyed the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

C: Well, I really liked the movie but I think only Marshmallow read the book.

S: No worries. You were so much smaller back then. Still, all in all, I am really glad you enjoyed this book. So what three words would you use to describe it?

C: Mysterious, funny, and cliff-hanging.

S: Okay, I guess we will claim that is a word now, because this is at least the second time you are using it. But you are right, the book does end with a resolution to the six escaped cubs problem but ends with a totally new problem which will tie in to the next book. So we do need to read the next book.

C: YES! We do! We have to!

S: Okay Caramel, and we will. But let us finish this post first. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!

After some reluctance to begin, Caramel devoured The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and now is itching to read the next two books in the series.
After some reluctance to begin, Caramel devoured The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and now is itching to read the next two books in the series.

Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow has reviewed several books by Soman Chainani already. Most recently she reviewed Rise of the School for Good and Evil and School for Good and Evil. Today, for her last review of this school year before the bunnies take off for the month of July, she decided to talk about Chainani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales.

Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about/with magic, monsters, and strong female characters, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Twelve tales that we thought we knew have been reinvented (Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, and Peter Pan). I would summarize all of them but instead I’ll just go over my favorites. 

Red Riding Hood: Every year the most beautiful girl in the town is eaten by wolves. The villagers surrender the girl, sending her into the woods, down a road alone, until she meets her fate. Our heroine, who isn’t ever named, was chosen by the wolves. She wears a red cape as she walks into the forest, intent on being the first to survive. 

Snow White: A queen asks a mirror for its opinion on the fairest of all. The queen is satisfied by its answer, until it starts to name the queen’s stepdaughter. The queen’s stepdaughter has crow-black skin, blood-red lips, and eyes with whites as bright as snow. The queen doesn’t believe people like that can be fair and orders a huntsman to kill her. But Snow White is harder to kill than expected.  

Beauty and the Beast: A book-loving girl dotes on her rich father. Everyone believes this to be virtue, but in truth, she has plans for her life, bigger than just being a maid/cook/servant. When her father loses his money, and rides out to try to get it back, he is forced to promise to send his daughter to a Beast. The Beast wants love, but the girl has no intentions of befriending the Beast; she wants to kill him. 

The Little Mermaid: A beautiful mermaid is in love with a human. She will do anything for him, despite the fact that they’ve never talked before. In fact, she only saw him once when she saved him from drowning. She wants a sea witch to turn her into a human, so she can be with him, but it turns out that stories always have two sides, and the side you’re on makes the biggest difference.

Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales a really good book to read, given certain events going on in human politics. Like in his School for Good and Evil series, Soman Chainani takes fairy tales that we all know and digs deeper. Not only does he change certain thing like places, ethnicities, genders, etc., but he adds an extra layer of meaning. Some of the stories take place in non-descript villages and kingdoms. The time period is that of your average fairy tale. But there is a lot that is different.

For example, Cinderella becomes more than a girl wanting to go to a ball; her story, Cinderella, shows different people struggling to find their happy ending only to find that it wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Hansel and Gretel isn’t just about two children killing a witch: Hansel and Gretel discover that the witch they’re supposed to kill isn’t the one in the candied house. All the twists are unexpected and fresh, and all together make for really good reading.

That said, some of these tales can be a bit disturbing to younger bunnies—I found the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a little scary for example—so I would definitely say that Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is more for 14-15 and above. Certain stories, mostly Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard, could be confusing or even disturbing to younger children. In fact, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of the two fore-mentioned stories the first time I read them. I would say that this would be a good book for both older children and parents to read and then discuss about, especially with the messages in the book. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.
Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow loved Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and reviewed three of the six books for the book bunnies blog, way back in our first year: Quests for Glory, the fourth book, A Crystal of Time, the fifth book, and One True King, the sixth book. Then a couple weeks ago, she got her paws on a prequel Chainani wrote this year, Rise of the School for Good and Evil, and reviewed it for the blog. After reading it, she decided to reread the very first book, School for Good and Evil, to see how it would hold up. She was not disappointed.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic, friendship, love, and fairy tales, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Sophie has waited all her life to be kidnapped by the School Master and be whisked away from her boring, plain life. Sophie lives in the quaint town of Gavaldon, where nothing is magical. Perhaps the only out-of-the-ordinary thing in Gavaldon is the kidnappings. Every four years, two children are kidnapped. One child is beautiful and virtuous; the other, cruel and ugly.

For hundreds of years, no one knew what happened to them, until the children realized something strange. The kids who were taken seemed to find their way into the storybooks. They just showed up years later in the fairy tales, but as fierce witches, beautiful princesses, brave princes, or violent villains.

We learn, as events unfold for the main characters of the book, that these children go to a school, specifically the School for Good and Evil. The kidnapper is the School Master. Villains, witches, warlords, and other Evil creatures are trained at the School for Evil, while princes, princesses, and other Good people are trained at the School for Good.

So in this backdrop, Sophie knows that one day she will be taken to the School for Good. She makes sure to do Good Deeds to show the School Master how good she is and why she should be taken to the School for Good. Sophie knows she will be the perfect princess. On the other hand, everyone in Gavaldon knows that Agatha will be taken as the Evil child. Agatha lives in a house in the middle of a graveyard, with her mother (whom everyone believes to be a witch), wears only black, and dislikes almost everyone.

Almost everyone. Sophie visits Agatha (as a Good Deed) every day, until the two become friends. Agatha slowly becomes more than just a pawn used to ensure Sophie’s place in the School for Good. While Sophie wishes for grandeur and eternal adoration, Agatha just wants one person who likes her, one person who could care about her “measly soul”.

Then the girls are both kidnapped, and Sophie’s dreams are realized… until she is dropped into the School for Evil, while Agatha is placed in the School for Good. Sophie struggles to get herself into the School for Good, while Agatha struggles to try to get them back to Gavaldon.

Eventually, the School Master tells them that if Sophie proves that she is not a witch, and if Agatha proves that she is not a princess, they can go home. He asks them: what is the one thing that a witch can never have, and a princess cannot live without? The answer: Love. If Sophie can find love, and Agatha can’t, they can go home. Given who they are, their roles seem easy to play.

Only one complication stands in their way: Sophie doesn’t want to go home; she doesn’t want to at all. 

Marshmallow is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: The first thing I should say is that I have read and reread this book so many times, my original copy of the book totally fell apart. For this review, I ended up getting a new copy so I could take pictures with it.

One of the reasons why I like this book so much and find it so interesting that School for Good and Evil isn’t just a different retelling of the familiar fairytales, but a whole new one. I think that this tale does fit into the world of other fairytales, and I really enjoyed reading about the world that Soman Chainani created.

School for Good and Evil, as probably everyone who has heard of it knows, is the first of a series of six. It is more or less self-contained, you could technically stop at the end and be done with it, but why would you? Chainani’s world is fascinating, and the stories get even better as you go deeper into the series.

The series is fantastical, magic, witches, fairytales, all are quite extraordinary. That said, the characters are very realistic. And some of them are very annoying (coughSophie,cough). I really enjoyed the way the characters developed throughout the series however. And I really liked how all of the characters had very big flaws in addition to their strengths. It was interesting to see that even fairy tale heroes have problems.  

Rereading the book after having just finished Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, all I can say is that if you just read the Rise and are about to embark upon the rest of the series, you are in for an amazing ride. The prequel does not spoil the fun of this first book, though of course it does spoil a little bit of the surprise. It is not a big deal however, either case, you learn about the School, one way or another, and the story works either way.

I am excited that Netflix is developing a series version of the books! Here is the trailer / teaser:

I for one am looking forward to it!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 98%.

Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.
Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.