Even and Odd: Fun and thought-provoking

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsEven and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsEven and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst

Even and Odd are pre-teen sisters living in Stony Haven, Connecticut, where their parents operate a border shop carrying “supplies for the mundane world, as well as imports from the magic world — anything a magical customer might need for their visit here.” Those imports and magically-inclined customers come from the land of Firoth, where Even and Odd were born, and which is accessible via magic portals. The sisters trade off magical abilities on alternating days, leading to their nicknames, though each girl has different opinions on their access to magic: Even, more than anything in the world, wants to become an Academy of Magic-certified hero, while Odd wants to focus on her volunteer work at the local animal rescue center and pretend that she’s completely mundane (unless the opportunity arises to transform Even into a talking skunk, at which point all bets are off).

Much to everyone’s surprise, magical portals begin closing, trapping travelers on whichever side they were currently visiting. Even and Odd, along with a young unicorn named Jeremy who came to their shop to buy soda and booster packs of cards for his favorite game, manage to make their way back into Firoth, where they discover that entire biomes and their residents have been displaced, non-magical entities have unprecedented access to magically-imbued items, and a powerful wizard holds the key to everything that’s gone awry if she can only be made to care about the disastrous results of her work.

Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst

Restoring Firoth to its normal state and reopening the gateways is a hefty task for such young and inexperienced adventurers, but the trio might be the only ones who can accomplish it.

Sarah Beth Durst’s latest children’s book is well-written and action-packed, and young readers will find lots to giggle over (unicorns poop different flavors of cupcakes, and Even spends nearly the entire adventure stuck in the form of a skunk, leading to plenty of opportunities for malodorous mayhem). The relationship between the two sisters is competitive and lively, their friendship with Jeremy is charming, and I loved the creative ways in which they each approached various challenges.

Meanwhile, Even and Odd (2021) contains poignant and timely commentary on forced resettlement, refugees, resource disparities, and family separation. Durst handles these topics sensitively, in ways that are fully accessible to her target audience and that are likely to prompt thoughtful discussions even among adult readers. Highly recommended.

Published in June 2021. A half-magic girl learns about heroism and taking action when she and her sister confront a wizard who endangers others for her own gain. Even and Odd are sisters who share magic. Lately, though, it seems like that’s the only thing they have in common. Odd doesn’t like magic, and Even practices it every chance she gets, dreaming of the day she’ll be ready to be a hero. When the hidden border between the mundane world the sisters live in and the magical land they were born in shuts abruptly, the girls are trapped, unable to return home. With the help of a unicorn named Jeremy, they discover a wizard is diverting magic from the border to bolster her own power. Families are cut off from each other on both sides of the border, and an ecological disaster is brewing. But the wizard cares nothing for the calamitous effects her appropriation of magic is having. Someone has to do something to stop her, and Even realizes she can no longer wait until she’s ready: she needs to be a hero now.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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