Recommended for ages 9-13
After being imprisoned in a neighboring city, forced to witness her friends’ deaths at the behest of a greedy king and evil wizard, Greta is doing everything she can to take care of her brother, Hans. Their parents have disappeared, leaving questions and heartache in their wake. When Greta returns home one day to discover Hans missing, she tracks him to a witch’s house. A witch who lives in a chicken leg house. A witch who eats children, and she’s sizing Hans up for her next meal unless Greta retrieves a priceless artifact for her. The artifact is in Belladoma – the city where Greta was held prisoner. A city of people Greta has vowed never to forgive. She’s joined on her quest by Dalen, a young centaur, who has his own village to save. Can the two unravel the secrets the king and wizard left behind to save everyone they love?
Ravenous is the sequel to Monstrous, a smart retake on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. We go deeper into that tale here; deftly woven with the Baba Yaga myth, with a sprinkling of Kraken/ancient Greek storytelling. I love Greta, the main character. She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s determined, and she’s vulnerable. She’s been hurt, she feels betrayed, and her loyalty and willingness to do anything for her brother is powerful and bittersweet all at once. They have no one but one another, and their parents remain a huge question mark in their lives. That’s got to be brutal for a child, and here, it is. MarcyKate Connolly digs deep into Greta’s determination and finds her pain, which acts as her engine. Through it all, though, she’s a good person.
I also love that Baba Yaga is making her way into the major leagues of storytelling over the last few years. We’ve seen her take center stage in Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon and the hit graphic novel Baba Yaga’s Assistant, and now she’s here, causing trouble in Ravenous. I’d like to see more folk and fairy tales from different cultures make their way to middle grade and YA literature; it provides a richer pool to draw from.
You don’t need to read Monstrous to enjoy Ravenous, but it’s highly recommended. A prequel for the series, Precious, is said to be in the final edition; I read an ARC, and the copy I bought for my library was gone as soon as it hit the New Releases shelf, so someone will have to let me know!
Give this book to your fantasy and fairy tale fans. Booktalk Monstrous and Ravenous as new ways of seeing existing folklore and encourage your book group to come up with their own ideas for reimagining a favorite book.