Review: The Weirn Books Vol 1

Published June 16th, 2020

JY, the Yen Press imprint dedicated to middle grade readers, introduced the leading characters of The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods, the first volume in a brand new series by Svetlana Chmakova, the creator of the best-selling graphic novels Awkward, Brave and Crush. Svetlana Chmakova was born and raised in Russia until the age of 16, when her family immigrated to Canada. She quickly made a name for herself with graphic novels such as Dramacon, Nightschool, the manga adaptation of James Patterson's Witch & Wizard and the webcomic Chasing Rainbows. Widely praised for creating fun and relatable characters that appeal to readers of all ages, The Weirn Books are sure to become favorites among Svetlana Chmakova’s many dedicated fans in a new series that has all the fun of Berrybrook Middle School with a supernatural twist!

“In the Night Realm: Shifters, Vampires, Weirns, and other night things passing for human may prowl the streets, but school is still in session and you still have to do your homework!”

Our story begins in the town of Latham, a New England coastal town that is home to Mermaids, Vampires, Werewolves, Shape-Shifters, and Weirns. What really sets Latham apart is that it coexists on the same plane as the night realm. The night realm is a place where things that go bump in the night will gladly eat you for dinner or take a piece of your soul and sell it at the night market. Weirns are described as witches born with a powerful demonic guardian spirit that is bound to them for life known as an astral. Every weirn’s astral has their own unique personality that can be reflective of their own personality or the completely opposite of it. The first weirn and main character that we are introduced to is Ailis Maeve Thornton as we see her grandmother yell to wake her up for school. Ailis is a 12yr old girl with messy red hair and best described as an adventurous introvert, her astral while somewhat behaved likes to dig up the ground and shed like crazy. It is through Ailis that we learn where our story takes palce, what weirns & astrals are, and through a broken window who are the other cast of characters.

We start with Jasper Whittle (12 yrs old), the weirn boy who broke Ailis’ window by hitting a baseball into it. He is a somewhat timid boy with glasses and short blonde hair; for the most part he is considered the thinker of the group. As timid as he may be his astral is more of a wild type and has a tendency to throw things randomly. Playing baseball with Jasper is Russel Wiske (15 yrs old) a werewolf who used to pick on Ailis but now makes her blush whenever he is around. He can be described as a handsome & tall lad with black wavy hair, and a perfect smile. Through this interaction we learn that the first spell all weirns learn from kindergarten is a fix-it spell due to the fact that when you mix kids with magic things tend to go boom… a lot. After making her way downstairs to the kitchen we meet Ailis’ grandma Julia Thorton, who runs a magic supply shop/bakery and takes care of Ailis when her parents are away. She can best be described as a tough, sarcastic, and loving old woman who runs a tight ship and doesn’t take any lip. As Ailis heads for school she makes a stop to make at a local veterinary clinic, it is here we are introduced to her cousins Na’ya (12yrs old) & D’esh (5yrs Old) Leiburne-Thornton who are also weirns. Na’ya can be described as a sharp-tongued young girl who considers herself dragon in training and her brother D’esh is an energetic and excitable young boy who constantly fights with her sister. Na’Ya’s astral is considered to be about even tempered and D’esh’s astral is very shy & tends to hide in D’esh’s coat whenever they are out.

Ailis, D'esh, & Ny'ya

In case you thought this was the typical early morning running late for school type situation, it’s not. The school for the magical takes place at night at the same school for the normal kids; the twist, the school transforms at night expanding in size. The way Svetlana illustrates her words to demonstrate the expansion of the school is as magical as the school itself. Classrooms come equip with crystal caves, swamps are and mini-lakes for Cryptozoology are formed, and of course the walls become more durable for spell practice. And like any school you got your bully/rival; meet Patricia Chow (12 yrs old) former friend now bully/rival in Ailis’ school life. Patricia is the all around popular kid with a mean streak and the friends to match; always sparkles when she enters a room, good grades, amazing style, and of course teachers love her. After we’re initiated with Patricia we quickly learn that Ailis and Ny’ya are on the opposite side of the popularity spectrum, especially when you consider their nickname “loser cousins”.

As the kids help Grandma Thornton with inventory one night, they find old photos of her and another child who looks like her, her twin brother Jacen. Jacen was one of the many students who disappeared in that old school house in the woods and was never seen again along with the head mistress. In the Silent Woods the kids pass by the old school house every night on their way to school. It is here that legend has it that something so horrible happened that the animals in the forest have even gone silent and this is where our mystery begins. A mysterious creature that has been following Ailis for some time, the old school house that it isn’t as abandoned as previously thought, and a spell so devastating that if used on any magic user they could cease to exist.

The Weirn Books, Vol. 1 can best be described as a light hearted adventure with some minor horror elements thrown in. It’s a fun story that kids and even adults can enjoy without being scarred for life. You could put this on the level of a ‘Goosebumps’ and the ‘Are you afraid of the dark’ series. It’s also a great story of family and friendship that everyone can enjoy greatly. The enigma surrounding the old school house will give readers chills and gasps as the mystery becomes unraveled. The art all through the book is beautifully done. Soft and vibrant colors with simple line work that help create the story and fit the image that the author/artist was going for. It even makes the book feel like it’s in the fall season with the way the town is depicted that makes you wish for fall weather and it’s perfect for the fall season. While the line work was simple, the details in clothing, hair, and background scenes are noteworthy and work for the storytelling. The use of typography for sound effects throughout the book are astounding; really conveying actions and giving scenes that magic wonder all the way through the book. 

The characters throughout the book are well thought out, can stand on their own, and are greatly diverse. Ailis and Ny’ya feel like a dynamic duo feeding off of each other, Jasper doesn’t feel like the typical nerd, I feel like we needed more Russel because he was kind of cool, seeing what happens with Patricia in the next book will definitely peak your interest, and Grandma was just the greatest in my opinion. Svetlana Chmakova takes her audience on a magical journey that will have you wanting to revisit Ailis and her friends over and over again until the next book. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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