Magical Eyes: Dawn of the Sand by Jessica D’Agostini
In the kingdom of Brightalia, “Eagle Sunday” means something a little different than you’d expect. Jessica D’Agostini’s debut novel Magical Eyes: Dawn of the Sand takes a trip down a familiar fairytale set-up with all the charm of a middle grade adventure. It all began when a white fish eagle blows through the celebrations and blesses a newborn princess with eyes that can control sand. Raven-haired, violet-eyed Martina wasn’t afforded a magical education, yet proved that her worth was never just about magic alone. From an early age, Martina listens to her citizens’ woes with rapt attention. Despite the kingdom’s precarious situation and the worrisome complex her brother is developing, the young princess faces the responsibility of saving her people. Throughout her journey, she encounters proof that magic can be used for good. With the added strength that lies in a decidedly unmagical boy’s positivity and bravery, Martina grows into her role. When Castella kingdom begins to act on its longstanding threats to take over Brightalia, Martina needs all her wit and her people’s faith to take on the challenge, magic or no magic.
Magical Eyes places the middle grade reader in struggling, but ultimately triumphant Martina’s shoes to pass on her empathy. D’Agostini writes Martina as a self-possessed, peace-loving character that combines her dutifulness with the resolve to fight for her beliefs. Only by breaking away from her passive nature can she be the person her people need her to be. Without conventional guidance, Martina’s character demonstrates that support can come in many ways. Everyone needs a nudge to remember the values worth standing up for, even if it means continuing to stand behind loved ones that have broken your trust. The concluding lesson is the same one echoed throughout the novel: given love, it is never too late for people to change for the better. Although the ending twist is a surprise, the novel reads a touch too simple and black-and-white at times. Events go down an expected path and wrap up neatly. Given the creative setting, Magical Eyes is a charming fairytale story that is sure to leave young readers delighted regardless.
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