Twelve-year-old Brynja lives in a small island town near the Wild Realm, which is home to a variety of magical plants and animals. Five Seekers serve as guardians of the Realm, maintaining the balance within it. Bryn wants to be a Seeker more than anything else in the world, both because she loves the creatures of the Realm and because the Realm will give her access to magical plants that can help her sickly little sister. However, only boys have ever become Seekers. Thus, when a Seeker retires and competitions are held to choose the next Seeker, Bryn is not allowed to train with the other competitors. Nonetheless, Bryn is eager to change how things have always been, and when Ari—her biggest rival—offers to train her in exchange for her help looking after a baby dragon, she cannot bring herself to refuse. In both setting and rendering of creatures, readers will find similarities to such big-screen properties as the How To Train Your Dragon series, though the plot is original if ultimately predictable. This island society is not racialized—all the human inhabitants have "light-brown skin" and "raven-black hair"—and the book's primary focus is on gender inequalities faced by women. The ending is not completely smooth, but Ott's fast-paced fantasy highlights the importance of persistence, especially with regard to changing society's (rather set) ways. An immersive and fun—if predictable—series opener. (Fantasy. 8-12)
– Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2020
Twelve-year-old Bryn is determined to become a Seeker like her father before her. She knows that she would be the first woman to take on the role of explorer and protector of the magical Wild Realm, but she doesn’t realize just how much resistance her set-in-its-ways community would have towards a female earning that title. When Bryn, considered too delicate, isn’t allowed to train for the competition, she is furious until Ari, a quiet fellow competitor, offers to pass along the training to her in exchange for help caring for a young dragon that he has secretly squirreled away. Bryn hesitantly agrees, and the real adventure begins. It’s a thrill to explore Ott’s magical kingdom, and it’s a particular delight to watch all of the relationships develop between the main characters; whether familial or friendly, they feel incredibly warm and true. Though its final revelations won’t come as much of a surprise, this well-executed story offers a wonderfully imaginative world for young fantasy fans to dive into.
– Booklist, April 15, 2020
Twelve-year-old Bryn’s greatest dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as one of her village’s five Seekers, those responsible for protecting the Wild Realm—a magical region covering the far reaches of their island. That way, she can see the Realm’s marvels and retrieve the rare flowers that alleviate her younger sister’s coughing fits. When the Seekers announce a competition to replace a retiring member, Bryn is sure she has a shot, but no girl has ever held the position, and she’s swiftly prohibited from training. Ari, another competitor, comes to her with a bargain: if she helps him take care of the baby dragon he hatched, he’ll help her train. Even though only one can be Seeker, they soon become fast friends, which helps when the competition takes an unexpectedly dangerous turn. With this engaging series opener, Ott (Rules for Thieves) uses her fantastical setting to challenge the idea of restrictive gender roles—not only does Bryn wish to become the first female Seeker, Ari, an empath, is looked down upon by those with more physical talents. Sympathetic characters, clear stakes, and an interesting social structure offer layers to this enjoyable fantasy. Ages 8–12. Agent: Victoria Doherty Munro, Writers House. (July)
– Publishers Weekly, May 25, 2020