Review 4 star
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The Stone of Wisdom by M. J. Evans is the fourth book in the Centaur Chronicles. After collecting three of the stones needed to fill her magical Silver Breastplate (the stones of Mercy, Courage, and Integrity), teenage heroine Carling, who belongs to a half-human, half-fairy race called the Duende, is confronted with a great challenge. She must find the Stone of Wisdom and put it to use while an evil wizard tries to unite three races of Crystonia against her potential rule. Owning the Silver Breastplate makes Carling the rightful ruler of Crystonia. Although many are willing to accept her—including her friends the Minsheen centaurs, and her own race, the Duende—the wizard Xanbar wants the throne for himself. And does Carling have what it takes to find the Stone of Wisdom in the first place?
The Stone of Wisdom is an impeccable YA fantasy read. Great for some middle-graders as well, the story has a developed world that creates an exciting place you can sink into each time you open the book. Multiple races of people in Crystonia—Fairies, Fauns, Centaurs, Duende, Cyclops, and Ogres—are fleshed out with good descriptions. M. J. Evans has a strong ability to build a very complex situation between warring races while still keeping the story fast-paced and active, and brave, strong-willed Carling was a Future-Queen-With-a-Heart-of-Gold. She won my attention through the sincerely likable and honest way she approached challenges, and the lessons she learned about what it takes to be a real leader rang true. Characterization is strong—the villains have enough comedy or frustration with each other to give them depth and the heroes have doubts, foibles, and preoccupations that lend scope and heart to their journey to rule a kingdom.
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