Thank you to Disney Hyperion Books and of course #BookAllies for the review copy of Pam Munoz Ryan’s upcoming SOLIMAR: The Sword of the Monarchs. This Middle Grade fantasy reads a bit like a cooler version of a Disney movie and is impossibe to put down.
To be clear though – Solimar is one of those rare books with a fourteen-year-old protagonist.
While preparing for her quinceanera, Solimar, a princess in an alternative-ish colonial Mexico, accidentally opens the door to another world and becomes the psychic protector of the magical monarch butterflies in her kingdom’s oyamel forest.
Solimar is just getting used to her new magical powers when neighboring King Aveno invades her palace home and takes her family hostage while her dad, brother and their army are on a diplomatic expedition. He’s after the kingdom, the butterflies – and Solimar!
Equipped with her fading magic, a semi-verbal quetzal, and a sassy animated rag doll, Solimar sets off to find her dad’s army. But can she stay ahead of King Aveno’s men in time to rescue her kingdom and the butterflies?
- Backmatter about how to protect monarch butterflies was “TK”… I’m always here for biodiversity advocacy, and geeking out over the realistic tie-in to a clearly fantasy novel.
- The “We trust the curandera with our lives but we NEVER talk about it…” really resonated.
- Teenage me was an exchange student in Mexico and beleived myself immune to intestinal parasites. If you ever had dysentery, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge.
- Semi-verbal quetzal. Sassy greek chorus of enchanted rag dolls, one who stows away with Solimar. Enough said.
- The climax involves some hilarious magic – honestly I wish Ryan would have dragged out that scene a bit more.
- Slight themes of gender and class commentary – not central to the story, and delivered with a resounding message of the importance of being true to yourself.
(Minor) Trigger Warning
- Obviously, the palace gets invaded and all of its occupants save Solimar and her quetzal Lazaro taken hostage. But it’s not a violent scene; it’s more about espionage/a state dinner gone bad.
With the Disney brand on the back cover, I kept trying to stack up Solimar against the other Disney princesses: She’s definitely more the self rescuing princess/ girl power Frozen type.
SOLIMAR: The Sword of the Monarchs will be released February 1, 2022 and can be pre-ordered now. Check out this gorgeous cover! Way cooler than the ARC, right?
- Publisher : Disney-Hyperion (February 1, 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- Reading age : 8 – 12 years
- Grade level : 3 – 7