After the kingdom was rescued in the first book, Max is now in knight school. She doesn’t like her new teacher, because he thinks only boys should be knights. She’s lost her confidence, as fellow student Sedgewick is better than she is, and she is questioning herself for the first time. Thankfully, when a new challenge comes along, she’ll be able to throw herself into action to rebuild her faith in herself.
Her friends are also finding their own ways. Millie is still learning magic. Kevyn is thrilled to have opened a library, although his only book is the story of their earlier adventure. Simon has quit knight school in order to take care of horses, which he likes better.
Then they discover a bodkin, which is a kind of evil twin. Max and her friends set out to keep the army of bodkins from taking over the kingdom, learning about paranoia and distrust along the way. It’s tricky to know who your friends are when they might have been replaced by an almost-exact copy.
The blend of illustrated text and short comics makes for an easy, read, all the better to spark imaginations with spells, comedy (when the spells go wrong), griffin rides, transformations, battles with fantastic creatures, and magic portals. It’s quite the saga, with plenty of coincidences and heroic rescues.
There’s a lot going on in Max & the Midknights: Battle of the Bodkins, and it can be tricky to keep track. Readers will likely want to re-read the book as soon as they know what’s going on to see the earlier hints and suggestions and to make sure they caught all the twists and turns. The cartoony look and humorous approach keep it all light-hearted, even when it comes to swordfights and attempted murder.
It’s great to see Max no longer having to hide that she’s a girl, although most of the rest of the cast are still male. That makes the message not so much “both boys and girls can have adventures” but “Max is an exception to the rules”. There are hints dropped for more revelations coming, presumably in a future volume, that may address that gap.
(The publisher provided a review copy. Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)