Categories: BooksEntertainment

Review: ‘Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop’

Photo courtesy of the publisher

When we meet Caley Cross in her first adventure, Caley Cross and the Hadeon Drop (due out September 8), she’s living a fairy-tale life. Only it’s the first part of that life, where you’re an orphan being raised in an abusive orphanage. This doesn’t make her particularly popular at her middle school, nor does her tendency to reanimate dead animals when she’s upset.

After one such incident, a mysterious crow with a metal wing spies her and seems to say “Found you.” She is soon whisked off to a magical world called Erinath, where she is the highest of high princesses in the land and is enrolled in a school where kids learn to manage the magic of this world and others.

Being whisked away to somewhere new where you’re someone special is a popular storyline in middle-grade fantasy books, and Caley Cross hews close to the norms of the genre: the friends you make right away who are true to you even when you’re awful, the mean girl who wants to embarrass you, the secrets in your past, the preternatural skill at something you’ve never experienced before, the fluttery romantic feelings you’re beginning to feel, and others.

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But author Jeff Rosen’s world is wholly its own. In Erinath, you bond with a living being (your “beast”) as a child, and that shapes your magic and your life in unique ways. Caley Cross bonds with a dark, malevolent beast early on, and harnesses its raw power when wielding an energy sword while riding her oroc, a sort of giant, furry dragonfly. Her home for the book is a massive sentient tree that rearranges its internal structure constantly. Humans as well as human-esque creatures are all part of the milling population. While Caley finds Erinath amazing, she quickly learns that an evil Watcher is after her in particular, and people within the school are under his influence, while others are fighting against him. Eluding and defeating him promises to be a recurring theme in the rest of the books.

TL;DR: If your kid liked the Harry Potter stories but not the way their girl characters were sidelined by boring male characters, they’ll find a lot to love in this book. My daughter moved the review copy we received to the top of her stack as soon as she saw it, and tore through it in about a day. She laughed out loud at some parts but found the book, by and large, gripping and intense, with lots of action.

A few aspects may turn off some readers. Nary a mention of the mean girl’s minions goes by without some comment about their weight; equating being overweight with being bad and stupid reinforces bullying behavior that ostracizes children and adults alike. Also, one character seems to repeatedly represent the going-too-far view of political correctness in a way that mocks the very necessary efforts to remove phrases built on harmful stereotypes from the language.

I received a review copy for this article.

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This post was last modified on August 7, 2020 5:15 pm

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  • Thank you so much for the wonderful review of my book! It made me reflect more on stereotypes. In particular, the comment about the inference that overweight equals bad and stupid. This was absolutely not my intention! The two Pingintee cousins are enormous because they have pig baests (the animal you are bonded with). They are meant to be huge, solid, ponderous, not fat. To avoid any potential of stereotypes, I intend to edit out any notion of their weight equating with their intellects in the next printing. As for Lidia Vowell, who often corrects "speciest" comments, we can all suffer from over political correctness from time to time, but I think her POV is valid and I think she's cool and a hero and not a figure of fun, so I stand behind her! Thanks again, Jeff Rosen.

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond. It's how it read to me, but I'm of course just one person with my perspective, so I apologize if I misread your intent!

    • No apologies needed! Books are built to interpret. I'm grateful you took the time to read Caley Cross! The comment about your daughter tearing through it and laughing absolutely made my day. Jeff

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