THE LAST FALLEN STAR Book Review by J. Elle

Riley Oh can't wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister's footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she's a saram--a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she's ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie's magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family's old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie's initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It's a perfect plan!

Until it isn't. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie's life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

About The Author

Graci Kim is a Korean-Kiwi diplomat turned author who writes magic-infused books for magic-infused readers. She grew up not seeing herself in her most treasured books, and has since committed herself to writing Korean diaspora characters onto the page.

Her mythology-inspired debut MG novel, The Last Fallen Star, about Korean witches in LA, forbidden spells, and one girl’s search for belonging will be published with Rick Riordan Presents, Disney Hyperion, on May 4 2021.

In a previous life, Graci was a diplomat for the NZ foreign service, a cooking show host, and once ran a business that turned children’s drawings into cuddly toys.

If not lost in her imagination, you’ll find Graci drinking flat whites, eating ramyeon, and most likely hugging a dog (or ideally, many). She lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughter.

Website: Twitter: @GraciKim

Instagram: @GraciKimWrites

Book Review by J.Elle

THE LAST FALLEN STAR is one of those books you read that want to hug when you finish. Right off, please know that this isn’t a book you need to consider buying. This is a book you buy for every book-loving middle grader reader in your life and a couple for reluctant readers, too! I’m going to attempt to give you an idea of why, without spoilers!

Kim’s ability to grab you with the story starts on page one with the dilemma Riley, the adopted daughter of a magical family, finds herself in. First off, she’s not magical and while she’s excited for her sister, Hatti, who is being initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful community of Korean healing witches; she is curious to see if she could share in the magic. So the two venture into a sneaky, but clever plan to cast a spell during the ceremony so Hattie and Riley both share her magic. It backfires! And what ensues is an adventure of discovery, full of lush Korean mythology, mythical creatures, food descriptions that’ll have you (literally) salivating, jokes that’ll have you cry-laughing, and--my favorite part--a journey of self-discovery for the most lovable kid who's just searching for a sense of belonging.

One of the best parts about this book is the excitement really grabs you from page one. The story truly seems to jump in motion which I credit to Riley’s incredibly vivid voice, which pops right off the page. She’s such a witty, fully realized character, you’ll find yourself smiling as you read. Riley also feels like a real, rounded character, in narrative depth, but also in authenticity to the age, which is a nod to the writer's talent. As a former educator of middle grade readers, I am sure this is one even the most reluctant reader will gobble up.

Not only because of the thrill and voice which are evident so early in this story, but also because Kim does a masterful job of grounding this fantasy in a contemporary setting. Now, expect there to be a wild magical adventure with twists and turns and surprises that’ll have you saying, “just one more chapter” until the wee hours of morning. But, for contemporary loving middle grade readers, this one is going to pull them right in, too. Kim’s magic system and worldbuilding are as rich as they are accessible, which makes this one of my top five middle grade books I’ve read this year!

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J.Elle is the author of the instant New York Times and Indie bestseller Wings of Ebony, a YA novel about a Black teen who must lean into her ancestor's magic to protect her inner-city community from drugs, violence, and crime. Ms. Magazine calls it "the debut fantasy we need right now." Elle is a former educator and first-generation college student with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a Master's in Educational Administration and Human Development. When she's not writing, Elle can be found mentoring aspiring writers, binging reality TV, loving on her three littles, or cooking up something true to her Louisiana roots.


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