Holly the squirrel once had grand dreams of being a heroic familiar like generations of brave animals before her, and saving the world by the side of her wizard. But when she drank from the magic pool that gives familiars their powers, her ability--conjuring pastries--wasn't deemed good enough for the wizards. Instead, she was sent to the Shelter for Rejected Familiars, where animals like her live.
Ever since, Holly has been intent on welcoming new arrivals to the Shelter for Rejected Familiars, whose abilities to turn to stone, float, or move the universe two feet to the left simply didn't live up to the wizards' expectations. She's found a community here, and she's determined to enjoy it, even if she'll never fully shake her old dreams of heroism and accomplishment.
When another Shelterling brings back news of a spell that could fix them and give them the magic powers they all deserve, Holly is determined to make it work. But as she and her friends defeat dragons, navigate tunnels, and travel across the sea to gather the necessary ingredients, she begins to wonder: what if they don't need better powers to be extraordinary after all?
I've adored every book I've read by Sarah Beth Durst (Spark, The Stone Girl's Story, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream are a few favorites), and her newest novel, The Shelterlings, utterly lived up to my hopes. With strong characters, clever twists, and an ever-present hint of humor, I sped through Holly's story and loved every word of it. Durst is a master of worldbuilding and adding uniqueness to every story, and her angle on the classic trope of familiars was particularly enjoyable. I also loved the characters, particularly Holly, Gus, and Periwinkle! I highly recommend The Shelterlings to readers ages nine and up, particularly those who like fantasy adventure novels.