Review (#giftedbook): Ballad & Dagger

Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Publishing for this free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is out 5/3.

Happy Monday Reader Friends! We went from a beautiful, sunny weekend in the PNW to…clouds. Again. However, the clouds mean I want to stay inside and read and write reviews so…silver lining I guess? I’m especially excited to talk about today’s book, as I have been anticipating it for a while.

Oooo this was one of my highly anticipated books of 2022 (click here for that post) and it was…so cool. So cool. Daniel José Older’s Ballad & Dagger is the first YA book in the Rick Riordan Presents imprint and I found it to be unique, and rhythmic, and yep, I’m going to say it again, cool. This is an “urban fantasy” according to the blurb, and brings together a whole bunch of cultures and magic.

The story follows Mateo Matisse, a high school musician living in the “San Madrigal” neighborhood in Brooklyn–a community comprised , according to the blurb, of “pirates, santeros, and Sephardim.” Fairly quickly, Mateo learns that not all is what it seems with his community’s leaders and their plans. While trying to find out their secrets, he discovers a big secret about himself.

I loved Older’s writing and Mateo’s character. I loved the blend of cultures within the San Madrigal community but also the commentary on the feelings of being an outsider, colonialism, diaspora, and culture. These are big topics in themselves, but Mateo is also very much a teenager, and this story speaks to that as well. While there is a lot I don’t want to give away, I feel like he came into his own (literally and figuratively) and it was such a lovely development to see.

While this is a YA, I would feel comfortable having this in my classroom with a YA tag (my 7th graders have to have parental permission to read YA from school). This is set to be a duology and I’m so excited for the second book. Plus, this is EASILY one of my favorite covers of the year so far. Again, cool.

Will you be adding this to your TBR? Let me know!

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