A middle grade series to be as appreciated for its scale of storytelling as it is for its well-conceived, alliterative titles, the Kiki Kallira series showcases a world of its main character’s imagination in adventurous book after book. In the latest release, Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse, Kiki and company explore a curse that has impacted her magical world based on mythology long before she ever drew it. By unraveling the secrets surrounding the curse, which has destroyed the primary water supply for a kingdom that Kiki recently saved, Kiki must confront how much of the worldbuilding she put into the story she drew is based on her own imagination or works entirely on its own. The little differences in these dynamics paired with the frantic pace she and her friends must solve the mystery agitates Kiki’s anxiety, which she works to calm with her counseling lessons—recent addition to her routine after revealing her issues with anxiety to her mother in the first book. By revisiting old friends and forging new alliances, Kiki finds herself confronting what it means to be a creator, learning what it means to accept others’ personal agency while also maintaining her own feelings of responsibility.
I tend to find middle grade books a perfect blend of imaginative storytelling and exploration of personality shaping themes. Sangu Mandanna has shown herself to be an author capable of managing this delicate balance in a highly emotive and engaging manner that I fear will always make me look forward to additional stories within the Kiki Kallira universe.