“Fish & Sphinx” by Rae St. Clair Bridgman

“Fish & Sphinx” by Rae St. Clair Bridgman 683 1024 Reader Views Kids

Fish & Sphinx

Rae St. Clair Bridgman
FriesenPress (2024)
ISBN: 978-1525585807
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (05/2024)

“Fish & Sphinx” is the bewitching third book in the MiddleGate series for young readers (7-11) and teens by Rae St. Clair Bridgman.

Blending fantasy, mystery, and adventure, the series highlights the quest of cousins Wil Wychwood and Sophie Isidor as they explore a world of magic and mystery in the mystical city of MiddleGate. In their time as students at the peculiar Gruffud’s Academy, they uncover dark secrets hidden beneath the city’s charming surface, including a secret society with sinister plans, known as Serpent’s Chain.

“Fish & Sphinx” picks up as Wil and Sophie try to stop another perilous scheme from the Serpent’s Chain. With the society aiming to take over the Manitoba Legislative Building (known to MiddleGate as The Palace of the Blazing Star), the stakes have never been higher. The cousins must decipher both a mystery and the palace’s intricate codes before it’s too late. Along the way, they encounter a host of enchanted beings from a shape-shifting human/catfish named Catfysh, animated stone sphinxes, lions, bison—even Medusa makes an appearance in this magical tale. Trouble mounts as the cousins suspect that some of Gruffud’s teachers and government officials may be members of the Serpent’s Chain and it’s the proverbial race against time to protect their city from impending doom.

What fun! Wil and Sophie are wonderful protagonists to root for. Wil is determined, courageous, and deeply curious. He wants to seek justice for his grandmother’s murder, but at the same time, he resents her for seemingly choosing his path in life. Sophie is clever and resourceful, using her quick wit and problem-solving skills, but her poker face (or should I say Mood Glasses) often gives away what’s really going on inside her head. Together, they balance each other out, at times seeming to be best friends, at other times more like brother and sister—getting on each other’s nerves and challenging each other. It all works together to create a realistic, genuine dynamic.

The secondary cast of characters could each star in a book of their own. The various mages at Gruffud’s Academy are a unique, diverse lot, teaching skills such as numerology, verbology, botanicals, and cartology, contributing to a magical education, to say the least. Mage Terpsy made me laugh out loud often with her slips of the tongue, affectionately dubbed by the students as “tipsy-terpsies,” for example: “dunderful weep truths” (wonderful deep truths).

It’s evident the author thoroughly enjoys herself writing this series. The writing is playful and captivating. The chapters start with a Latin phrase adding mystique (which is translated for the reader) and a beautiful black and white drawing, as a nice touch for the intended age group. The drawings are spectacular in their own right!

Each page holds a certain appeal guaranteed to make the reader forget about whatever else they may have going on and engross themselves in the magical world that is MiddleGate. I keep saying “magical”—I can’t seem to come up with a more appropriate word!

I also learned a lot in a way that was as entertaining as it was interesting! The author skillfully weaves multiple historical facts into the story, blending in a way that never feels forced or dumped on the reader. In addition to the above-mentioned subjects such as Latin and numerology, etc., there are also references to Egyptian mythology and architectural history, like the origin of Tyndall limestone (sorry, you’ll have to read the book if you don’t know about Tyndall limestone). I feel certain I could read this book multiple times and pick up something new with each sitting.

One note: I started with book three in the series, which is not something I would advise. I was perfectly able to jump right into the story, but I’m sure I missed out on some background information that would have heightened my understanding of things. That said, my enjoyment was not deterred one bit. Still, don’t be like me—start with book one!

“Fish & Sphinx” by Rae St. Clair Bridgman is an enchanting and captivating tale that will delight readers of all ages with its blend of fantasy, mystery, and intriguing facts. I highly recommend diving into the MiddleGate series.

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