CURSES! FOILED AGAIN
by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro
2012 Junior Library Guild Selection
The Defender of Fairie is back and as confused as ever. Sure, Aliera has her magical weapons and a loyal (if dumb) sidekick in her lab partner–troll defector, Avery, but what next? Well, it isn’t long before adventure finds her. While locked away in a troll holding cell, her best friend and cousin is kidnapped. It’s up to Aliera to save her, and it all comes to a head in an epic battle that tests loyalties and reveals some interesting history about her selection as Defender. Fans of Yolen’s fencing fantasy, Foiled (2010), will not be disappointed by this sequel, featuring more of Cavallaro’s cool, mostly monochromatic art. — Courtney Jones
Yolen’s smart, introspective, foil-wielding Aliera Carstairs returns, this time to thwart the Dark Lord’s plot to kidnap her beloved cousin. The Dark Lord wants the Defender’s weapon—that’s Aliera’s sword, the one with the hokey-looking jewel at the base that Aliera’s mother picked up at a tag sale. It’s this marriage of the mundane and the magical that gives this sequel to Foiled its most winning moments; Aliera has to squeeze her feats of derring-do in between high school math tests and fencing practice. Cavallaro uses a pallid gray-green palette for the New York City landscape in which Aliera lives her everyday life and rainbow colors for the magical beings that trail her. The story line has heart and intelligence, and Yolen successfully weds faerie lore to cinema-style plot twists; the only weak spot is the occasionally clunky dialogue: “You’ve watched too many cheap movies, Aliera,” her nemesis tells her. “You sound like every cheap villain in them,” is Aliera’s banal retort. Yet Aliera is such an engaging hero that fans will gladly overlook the deficit. Ages 11–up.
En garde! Gear up for more sword fights and trolls as well as an appearance from Baba Yaga in this swashbuckling sequel.
Picking right up where Foiled (2010) left off (though with enough back story for new readers to comfortably jump in), Aliera Carstairs, the sassy, sword-fighting, take-no-prisoners heroine, is still battling trolls as the last Defender of Faerie. Avery Castle, the hottie who turned out to be a troll—literally—is now bound to Aliera as her vassal, causing her more headaches than heart flutters. The unlikely pair must find and battle the Dark Lord, whose identity, when revealed, isn’t quite the shocking twist it was set up to be. Cavallaro keeps the stylized sensibility he established in the previous volume, rendering our world a washed-out grayscale landscape and juxtaposing it against the vibrant—though invisible to humans—world of Faerie. Given that each chapter is named for a type of fencing move, it’s too bad there is no glossary to help those unacquainted with the sport understand what is undoubtedly a careful authorial nuance. This minor flaw aside, the book offers a lot of fast-paced fairy-tale fun, and Aliera is both admirable and easy to relate to for her fierceness and foibles.
A mysterious prophecy of things to come at the conclusion results in raised eyebrows and impatience for Volume 3. (Graphic fantasy. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–In Foiled, fencing student Aliera Carstairs was swept away into a fantasy world when she put on her mask in Grand Central Station. In this sequel, she’s off on more adventures, this time with her wheelchair-using cousin Caroline by her side.
Voya (Voice of Youth Advocates) Magazine
In this sequel to Foiled (First Second, 2010), Aliera Carstairs is a fairly normal teenager who keeps her grades up and is a promising fencer. She has also discovered that she is the “Defender of the Fairie,” charged with keeping the balance between the “mundane” and “mystical” worlds. To help her, she has a fencing foil that her mother found at a yard sale, but which is really the sword of the Last Defender of the Fairie (i.e. Aliera). She is joined on her quest by a troll who has taken the form of a handsome high school student named Avery Castle and who calls Aliera his “liege lord,” much to her frequent chagrin. Aliera must defend both realms, figure out which fairies, trolls, and other folk there are to actually help her, and keep her parents blissfully oblivious of her additional extracurricular activities.
This artwork shows influences of both Eastern and Western styles. The use of color is particularly interesting, as the “mundane” world is depicted using a grayscale pallet, while the “mystical” world is depicted with a variety of colors, with each character using a single color as a theme; for example, trolls are colored in shades of green, while many fairies are colored in shades of yellow. The artwork itself is highly detailed, with several seemingly minor elements providing additional information and/or commentary about the action. The storyline shows a similar fusion of styles, taking elements of Western fairy tales and placing them into a “magical girl” story that will be familiar to most readers of manga. The characters are engaging, and the story is well paced. The ending makes it clear that a sequel is already in the works. Young teens looking for a quick read with a strong female character should enjoy this.—Jonathan Ryder.
by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro
2012-2013 OR Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice and ORCA Nominees
2011 “Great Graphic Novels For Teens”, Young Adult Library Services Association
2011 Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Reading List
Best of 2010 Graphic Novel Reporter
2010 Junior Library Guild Selection
Aliera may have listened too well to her fencing coach’s advice: “You must always protect your heart.” Besting competitors twice her age in tournaments and keeping to a strict routine of fencing practice, homework, and role-playing games, Aliera is a loner and likes it that way – until she becomes lab partners with the cutest boy in school. She initially resists his charms but is won over when he asks for a date. Turns out her new ruby-handled foil is the key to his interest in her, and to the yet-unseen magical dimension she must keep in balance. Yolen’s first foray into the graphic format is a success precisely because she incorporates the best weapon in her arsenal – fantasy. In Aliera she has created a strong, conflicted, and relatable girl hero who wields her wariness for protection. Cavallaro’s artwork suits Aliera’s monochrome existence, but bursts to life when she finally sees (in color!) the faerie beasties cheering her on. The explanation and source of Aliera’s status as a protector of worlds will have to wait for further volumes to be revealed. – Courtney Jones
Veteran fantasist Yolen introduces the utterly charming and sassy Aliera, a quirky tenth-grade loner who’s both color-blind and an expert fencer, in this charming graphic novel. Aliera slinks her way through high school, focusing on fencing practice, reading and engaging in role-playing games with her cousin. When hunky Avery Castle arrives at her school, all the girls are immediately smitten, and Aliera also falls for Avery’s good looks and charm, though she tries to downplay her feelings for him. An odd turn of events throws Aliera’s routine off balance, and everything in her life she knew to be real—from a practice foil her mother bought her at a tag sale to the lothario Avery to the entire world as she knew it—is suddenly not what it appears to be. This fantastic change brings color into her life, and the drab grays that wash over Cavallaro’s panels now burst with vibrantly hued blasts. An enchanting tale, with hints of a possible continuance. For fantasy lovers, this is an absolute must-read. (Graphic fantasy. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–The chapters in this clever graphic novel follow the terms of a fencing match, from “Engagement” to “Disengagement,” with successive stages in between. Most of the illustrations are done in two tones as Aliera Carstairs makes it through her humdrum days in high school, where she doesn’t fit in. Color begins to appear when she puts on her fencing mask at Grand Central Station and the fantasy begins. Illustrations complement the text well, with larger pictures reflecting the character’s situation and feelings. After meeting her date and admitting to seeing ogres and dragons when wearing her mask, he thinks she is crazy, but a wild adventure ensues. She loses her weapon but it is returned by a fairylike creature who tells her that the foil her mother purchased at a tag sale is the source of her powers, and she is the defender and now part of a world called Helfdon. The ending will leave readers anxiously awaiting the second installment in the series.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI