Esme’s SPFBO 2017: An Ominous Book by Nancy Foster

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This book was part of Bookworm Blues grouping, and has since been eliminated – their review here:

I struggle pretty hard when trying to review middle grade/YA books – I’m clearly not the audience, nor do I read these books often, nor do I have any kids or young nieces and nephews to try them out on. For this review, I’m trying to think about how I would have viewed it as a kid.


It opens with an elf named Spaulding being told by one of his friends that he’s going to be watching two human children for at least one winter, possibly more. His friend found two kids being sold into slavery, realized that they were from a noble line who’s house has collapsed. It also turns out these two kids are distantly related to Spaulding since Spaulding is a human-elf hybrid.

Spaulding reluctantly takes the two kids, not being accustomed to kids since they’re so rare in the elf culture. He’s pretty stiff and addresses them rather formally and gets them started into lessons on elf language and culture.

The kids don’t behave all that well, and sneak around listening to Spaulding’s conversations, and going into parts of the castle he’s said is forbidden.

They overhear something about a chest that needs to be transported to the capitol and disposed of in utter secrecy. It’s not clear what’s in the chest, but it’s definitely something that makes everyone on edge.

The kids go on a few adventures with Spaulding, he’s a Ranger who scouts out the perimeter of the elven city capturing anyone who’s up to something bad – robbers and the like.

There are a few different storylines going on, the adventures with Spaulding and this mysterious chest that he’s kept for years that he needs to get rid of it soon.

Final Score: 7/10


Spaulding is sort of the main character even though the two kids take up a lot of page time. He’s very formal and “elegant”, he likes peace and quiet and deeply resents his human heritage. Elves are immortal unless they’ve been tainted with human blood – they then become mortal, ageing and dying like humans do, it just takes a little longer. Elves are vegetarian and despise meat thinking it’s barbaric, on one of the adventures with the kids he’s forced to try out meat and he’s repulsed, getting physically ill at the thought.

The two kids have opposite personalities. The little girl whines a LOT, she’s never all that happy with what’s going on, but by the end she starts coming around to Spaulding. She thinks of him as a demon at first and cries at the drop of a hat. The boy is older and much more mature, he really appreciates Spaulding taking them in, he wants to learn more about Elves and their world and was a more enjoyable character to read about.

Final Score: 7/10 

World Building:

Elves live apart from humans in this world, although they know of each other and occasionally interact. Humans have a warped view of Elves thinking they are demons or evil in some way when really they’re just reclusive. Elves have a similar distaste and distrust of humans – with the exception of the Red Clan. Elves have 13 clans if I remember correctly, and most cherish pure elven blood, but the Red Clan purposefully intermarries/breeds with humans and embrace the natural cycle of birth and death. It annoys Spaulding to no end.

Special rings are handed down from Lord to his heir both in the human world and elven world marking them as nobility. Without these rings, it’s very difficult to prove who you really are, so having one stolen is extremely inconvenient.

The Elven cities have next to no violence or criminal behavior, and it’s kept that way through Rangers constantly scouting the perimeter of the cities to make sure no one with ill intent makes it into the city. Spaulding will spend months at a time on horseback scouting through the woods.

All Elves can use magic, and it’s saved Spaulding on more than one occasion – it’s very mysterious magic, def no magic system here.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


This was a light-hearted adventure book for kids, it had elves and castles and kids in peril.

The events in the book kind of jumped around a little, months would pass between chapters, but it wasn’t a huge issue, kids are typically fine with “3 months later” kind of thing.

Bookworm Blues said she read this to her 6-year-old daughter, but I would have guessed this would be something a 10-year-old would enjoy. I guess BB’s daughter has some mad reading skills, because to me the language was more middle-grade than young children’s book.

Pacing Final Score: 8/10

Writing Final Score: 8/10


This is where I struggle with the most in YA books, many many YA books revolve around kids going on adventures, it’s what kids love to read. Looking at what makes the book stand apart – the kids have no real powers themselves. This isn’t a magic school, the kids aren’t the chosen one, there’s no great monster or feats of bravery they perform like in many other kids books. They’re pretty typical kids, so in that way it may be easier for other kids to relate to them.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


  • For people who like YA/Middle grade
  • For people who like adventure stories
  • For people who like elven POV
  • For people who like opposite personalities going on an adventure
  • For people who like young POV’s
  • For people who like classic high fantasy

Final Score: 45/60 or 7.5/10


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