KINGDOM OF SECRETS by Christyne Morrell
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Until she met Abi, Prismena was a rule-follower. Mostly. Sure, she collected junk to make her little inventions, and that was technically illegal, but it wasn’t hurting anybody! She certainly wasn’t involved in a rebellion against King Michael, the self-proclaimed savior of her kingdom.
But when resourceful street urchin Abi blackmails Prismena to smuggle a package onto her father’s hot air balloon, leading to her father’s arrest, Prismena suddenly has to choose between abandoning her father in prison or joining the rebellious orphans her father expressly forbade her from associating with. Though she tries to tell herself that it isn’t her fight and isn’t her problem, as her involvement with the rebels deepens, Prismena starts to realize that the safety of the children and the fate of two kingdoms might come to rest squarely on her shoulders.
A delightful middle grade debut featuring young engineers! Prismena and Abi have distinct and wonderful voices that make you cheer for them throughout their struggles (at one point I literally cheered aloud when Prismena did something particularly awesome). The social commentary is light-handed and thoroughly integrated into the plot, and as in all good MG fiction, the children are the moral compass and the agents of change. The world felt grounded in our own, while the hot air balloons added a whimsical quality to this magic-free fantasy. Highly recommend to middle grade readers, teachers, and book clubs!