3 out of 4 stars
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The Chronicles of the Virago by Michael K Bialys is a sweet and earnest story for children at heart. When twelve-year-old Makenna Gold finds out she’s the Virago—the hero of heroes, protector of the light—she can’t believe it. How is she, a kid who’s not even good at sports, supposed to fight darkness and save the world? But when Makenna finds out her newborn siblings are the light in need of protecting, Makenna’s Virago instincts kick in. Nothing will harm her younger brother and sister, and Makenna will risk everything to defeat the darkness.
Bialys perfectly captures the thoughts of a twelve-year-old girl. Makenna’s greatest concern before learning she’s the Virago is winning the science fair. She’s so proud of her project and wants to wipe the smug smirk off popular-girl Heather’s face. When Makenna is bonded to the Virago weapon, she has a burst of energy Bialys describes as Makenna being able to answer questions while beating all the boys at basketball. These are such preteen concerns, and they are felt so genuinely. Makenna is told she will choose the form of her weapon, and she winds up with a skateboard. Skateboarding is often portrayed as a “boy sport,” and it was great to see a female character rockin’ some moves.
Makenna’s three fairy companions are also well-voiced. Bree, Dee, and Marigold are a team but have their own unique personalities. I found myself fondly reminded of the ladies from A Wrinkle in Time or the three fairies from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty without feeling like Bree, Dee, and Marigold were copied. I especially like Dee’s humor. When the hounds find Makenna too soon, Dee blames social media, and it’s adorable.
The story itself feels a bit transparent. When the fairies tell Makenna she’s the Virago, Makenna doesn’t even blink. She accepts it as truth, no questions or doubts. Based on the description of the book, I expected more about Makenna dealing with being the Virago and protecting her little siblings. Instead, much of the action focuses on Makenna’s trials with Heather. After Makenna defeats an initial evil hound, something called the Alghanii is mentioned as a terrible threat. A lot happens involving Makenna’s every-day life before the Alghanii threat materializes, which left me feeling like the stakes just weren’t high enough. There are interspersed chapters that take place in Hell (or something similar to it) that work to forward the Virago plotline, but without the same focus from the chapters with Makenna, I got a little lost.
My favorite part of this book is the important messages it delivers. Makenna is told over and over from many sources that fear is a tool she can use to aid her as the Virago. Toward the end, one of the fairies quotes Henry Ford’s famous line about how we can or cannot do something if we believe. Well into adulthood, these are things I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching Makenna put these concepts into practice gave me a tangible example of how they can really work. This alone brings The Chronicles of the Virago into the league of books able to have a meaningful impact on young readers.
I rate The Chronicles of the Virago 3 out of 4 stars. The characters are great, and the lessons can’t be beat. The places where the story feels thin aren’t enough to lower my rating. However, the book is full of grammatical and typographical errors, and I cannot give it a full 4 stars. This book is an excellent read for kids between 8 and 11 years. I would also recommend it for a slightly younger crowd to read with a parent, as this truly is a family story.
The Chronicles of the Virago
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