Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Shannon Messenger.
The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, middle-grade
I cannot even BEGIN to describe how much of an impact this series has had on me. I read them for the first time when I was ten-years-old and reread them countless times in the following months. Everything I wrote between the ages of 10-12 followed some sort of theme from the Seventh Tower–whether it was bad-ass blonde warrior chicks, planets of ice, shadow magic, or mystic warrior cults (though that was also influenced by my excessive reading of the Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice novels). Even today I find my stories tinged with Garth Nix’s influence.
My love for these books only increased when I rediscovered them at age 18 and realized they were JUST AS GOOD at 18 as when I was ten. AND NO ONE HAS EVER READ THEM. Seriously, other than my brother, I have encountered exactly two other people in my life who have even heard of the Seventh Tower. So give it to your children or read it yourself!
Twelve-year-old Tal’s world lies in darkness, hidden beneath a thick Veil where his people, the Chosen, live in seven towers. When his father disappears, Tal is forced to steal a sunstone from above the Veil, but disaster strikes as he falls into a mysterious world of ice and snow outside the towers. There, Tal meets Milla who is begrudgingly sent to help him unravel the corruption threatening both the Chosen and their world as a whole.
I love everything about this series. The world-building is fantastic. The Chosen are separated into seven social classes based on the color of light they are allowed to emit from their sunstones–red being the weakest and purple the strongest. The magic system is based on the interplay of light and shadow. Using sunstones, light can be woven into solid form and used for different purposes. Not only that, but each Chosen’s shadow is bound to a creature from Aenir–an alternate world where fantastical creatures roam. Each child is given a shadowguard, a being that cannot talk or do much more than follow one around. However, when a Chosen reaches a particular age, they are allowed to go to Aenir and bind their own Spiritshadow, and that spiritshadow is instrumental in a Chosen’s status.
Outside of the towers, Icecarls live on the icy surface of the planet, nomads who follow the herds of Selski. Unlike the Chosen, they fear living shadows. It wasn’t until I reread these books when I was older that I realized that the Icecarls with their shield maidens were based on Viking and Scandinavian lore. Milla, as a shield maiden, was one of the first bad-ass heroines I encountered in my reading, and she quickly rose as one of my favorite characters of my childhood.
The Seventh Tower is full of magic, adventure, of fighting against evil, as well as a fascinating world and magic system that simply draw you in. I mean, I STILL want a spiritshadow, even fifteen years after I first read these books. What I think makes Garth Nix such a successful children’s author is that he does not belittle children when he writes. He lays out the stakes of good versus evil and does not shy away from the consequences. There are some truly horrifying moments in this series, but those moments are never showing evil for the sake of evil. They are moments that are crucial to the series, and were something I appreciated when I was ten–that kids my age were not inconsequential, but could be heroes when called to it.