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Ballad & Dagger

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Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older's music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community. Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse's island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal's sinking escaped to New York. While the rest of Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older's music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community. Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse's island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal's sinking escaped to New York. While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo--now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who's alive, the other not so much)--is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago. But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo's life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew. Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself--a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland.


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Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older's music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community. Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse's island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal's sinking escaped to New York. While the rest of Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older's music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community. Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse's island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal's sinking escaped to New York. While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo--now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who's alive, the other not so much)--is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago. But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo's life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew. Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself--a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland.

30 review for Ballad & Dagger

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    Do you remember San Madrigal? Oh, that beautiful island swallowed by the sea . . . the Atlantis of the Caribbean! The irresistible music of the kameros electrified the tropical evenings. The Grand Fetes swirled with color and joyful chaos: dancing, singing, and drumming; gifts and prayers for the spirits. Platters overflowed with luscious seafood. Nowhere else in the world had that particularly wonderful mix of humanity—the three “founding” groups of Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates, and also In Do you remember San Madrigal? Oh, that beautiful island swallowed by the sea . . . the Atlantis of the Caribbean! The irresistible music of the kameros electrified the tropical evenings. The Grand Fetes swirled with color and joyful chaos: dancing, singing, and drumming; gifts and prayers for the spirits. Platters overflowed with luscious seafood. Nowhere else in the world had that particularly wonderful mix of humanity—the three “founding” groups of Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates, and also Indigenous peoples, dispossessed European Jews, and freed West Africans. San Madrigal was a haven from persecution, slavery, and colonial rule. It wasn’t perfect, no, but it was fiercely, proudly independent. A tiny jewel of a country! And then, fifteen years ago, it disappeared beneath the waves, leaving behind only the diaspora community of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, New York. I still ache with sorrow when I think about such a loss to the world. Wait, you say. You check a map. You Google “San Madrigal.” Uh, Rick? San Madrigal isn’t real. It never existed. Balderdash! I say. (Because I am the kind of person who says “Balderdash.”) Just because a place is fictional doesn’t mean it isn’t real. San Madrigal is a real as Wakanda or the Shire or Earthsea. Once you read Ballad & Dagger, you will see what I mean. Only the best authors can make me feel nostalgic for a place that never existed but needs to exist, and Daniel José Older is one of the best. In Ballad & Dagger he gives us not only amazing characters, not only a compelling story, not only beautiful prose, humor, and heart—all of which come standard with every Older novel. He also gives us an entire culture—the heritage of a lost island we didn’t know we needed until it had sunk beneath the sea. That, my friends, is powerful writing. Like all San Madrigaleros, our hero Mateo Matisse is many things. He’s a musician, a healer, a young man in search of his place in the world. He’s also going to be your new best friend as he guides you through the wonderful world of Little Madrigal: a community infused with magic, where spirits live side by side with the living, and where the fractious, pirate-inspired democracy of San Madrigal fights to maintain its culture without its island. But what if San Madrigal could be raised again? What kind of magic would that require? What kind of sacrifices? These are the questions Matteo Matisse will have to wrestle with in Ballad & Dagger, and he’s going to need his healing skills, because the fight for the soul of San Madrigal is going to open up some very old wounds. For many years, I have aspired to work with Daniel José Older. I have read all his books. I have been in awe of his breathtaking range. I have longed to find the largest soapbox available, stand upon it, and shout into my megaphone: HEY, EVERYBODY, YOU NEED TO READ THIS GUY! I am delighted that I finally get to do this. And while any Daniel José Older novel is worth shouting about, Ballad & Dagger is something truly special. The first Rick Riordan Presents novel geared toward young adults, it is also, in my opinion, the most daring, ambitious, and memorable story Older has written yet, and that is saying a lot. If any magic can raise San Madrigal from the sea again, it is the book you now hold in your hands. Just be warned: once you’ve explored the lost island, you may never want to leave!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Thanks to Netgalley and Disney Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars, rounded up. The first half was... a slog. It was slow and political and not much happened. It picked up after that, and I'm really glad that I finished it. The last 30% or so was fantastic - things finally picked up, more powers were used, stuff happened! I loved the lore of San Madrigal, and I loved the spirits. I wish we'd been able to see more Thanks to Netgalley and Disney Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars, rounded up. The first half was... a slog. It was slow and political and not much happened. It picked up after that, and I'm really glad that I finished it. The last 30% or so was fantastic - things finally picked up, more powers were used, stuff happened! I loved the lore of San Madrigal, and I loved the spirits. I wish we'd been able to see more use of the powers and a bit more action in the first half to make it interesting. It was a lot more political than I expected for a YA book. I loved the POC representation and the cultural aspects of the book. Will I pick up the sequel? Probably. The end of this one was good enough to warrant that. Recommended for fans of mythology and Rick Riordan books with patience for slow beginnings.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    This was my first Daniel Jose Older book and there was a lot of world building despite the very real world setting. The island of San Madrigal dissappeared below the ocean waves 15 years ago and most of the survivors and their descendants live in a small neighborhood in Brooklyn. The pacing in the first half was a little bit slow for me but there was something about Mateo and his community that kept me reading. This is a definitely conversation starter for diasporan Caribbean children. Many peop This was my first Daniel Jose Older book and there was a lot of world building despite the very real world setting. The island of San Madrigal dissappeared below the ocean waves 15 years ago and most of the survivors and their descendants live in a small neighborhood in Brooklyn. The pacing in the first half was a little bit slow for me but there was something about Mateo and his community that kept me reading. This is a definitely conversation starter for diasporan Caribbean children. Many people don't necessarily want to reflect on the after effects of colonialism and colorism especially with so many island nations pushing this idea of "We're all XYZ nation" while ignoring that the darkest in society still stays at the bottom years after slavery ended. The island of San Madrigal boasts about having never been conquered however it's racial dynamics closely resemble it's Caribbean cousin's that were. Mateo lives with his Tia Lucia and his ghost tia Miriam while his parents travel the world. I liked how close he was to his tia and the depiction of a non traditional family. Mateo has this healing magic and his love of music was uniquely tied into that. The story also blends different religions with Sephardim and Santeria equally being observed in their community.And then pirates have their own way of life. I liked that Mateo was awkward and unsure. So often we read these stories where people discover they have great power and they talk about being unsure but we don't really see and feel it. Mateo finds out he has these powers and he freaks out! He's also experiencing his first big crush on Chela who also has powers she doesn't know how to control. They were so cute together! While it was a little slow for me in some parts and the world could get confusing at time I did enjoy it. 3.5

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Ballad & Dagger was completely magical. Way more than I expected it would be. Then again, I don't think Rick Riordan has ever given me a bad book. Hopefully, Daniel keeps doing the same! So, yes, I was very excited to jump into this one and practically screamed all kinds of joy when I saw that I was accepted to do so. It just unfortunately took me forever to finally find the time to read this. Honestly, I'm mad at myself fo I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Ballad & Dagger was completely magical. Way more than I expected it would be. Then again, I don't think Rick Riordan has ever given me a bad book. Hopefully, Daniel keeps doing the same! So, yes, I was very excited to jump into this one and practically screamed all kinds of joy when I saw that I was accepted to do so. It just unfortunately took me forever to finally find the time to read this. Honestly, I'm mad at myself for waiting so long. I absolutely fell in love with everything within this. Whether it was the vibes of New York City calling my name, a magical missing island that I secretly hope I can walk into, the culture, monsters, or even the magic itself. Seriously, so much was going on that it's kind of hard to pick one thing that I really enjoyed. The entire book was enjoyable, and I can't wait for the sequel to come out. No, really, I need the next book like right now. I already think it will be a great addition to this series and can't wait for what else Mateo needs to face. Do I think he needs to be thrown into another dark mystery? No, but I will wish for it anyways. I just need a great adventure and it just seems like Mateo will walk into one no matter what. In the end, I will patiently wait for 2023 to come so that I can get my hands on the next book within this series. I'm so happy that I got the chance to jump into this wonderful book and can't wait for everyone else to read it. Hopefully they enjoy the overall journey as much as I did. Maybe even more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Maye Holiday

    Another wonderful OwlCrate Exclusive edition! It has beautiful cover art. Ballad & Dagger is the first in an urban fantasy series by a bestselling author, and in many ways, it's a timely treasure. In keeping up with current events and global issues, the book can be taken as not just fiction, but also as a parable about diaspora, meaning, culture and corruption from the voices of those who often aren't heard. It's an unconventional, to say the least, in its approach to a broad genre in fiction. U Another wonderful OwlCrate Exclusive edition! It has beautiful cover art. Ballad & Dagger is the first in an urban fantasy series by a bestselling author, and in many ways, it's a timely treasure. In keeping up with current events and global issues, the book can be taken as not just fiction, but also as a parable about diaspora, meaning, culture and corruption from the voices of those who often aren't heard. It's an unconventional, to say the least, in its approach to a broad genre in fiction. Urban fantasy is a perfect fiction genre for our current western world in the sense that it can expertly capture a state of affairs and, if done correctly, share them without being too on-the-nose. I have to agree though with other reviewers here - Ballad & Dagger is painfully heavy-handed, political and preachy to the point where the first half of the book just feels like reading an arts student's creative writing prose. The book is clearly trying to comment on trends in very recent history that have already died down in sociopolitical interest, and it hinders the story, unfortunately. Stronger subtlety and a focus on the broader issues: xenophobia, the environment - could have saved this book from being a relic of the COVID age. Instead, it feels like something that our children will find in the back of our closets one day, along with those boot cut jeans that don't fit anymore and the laptop that died with Windows 7 software still on it, and they'll roll their eyes or wonder what the story is trying to reference. There's a place for political commentary in genre fiction. Subtlety, care and speculative reason are the elements that weave it seamlessly and timelessly in versus just dumping it there as a way to catch attention. Look at, for example, the movie Spirited Away. Instead of limiting itself to a commentary on 1980s consumer culture in Japan, it broadened itself out with timeless themes about greed, environmental pollution, exploitation and loneliness. These themes still apply strongly today, setting the movie free from the bindings of its origin era. There's a lot that can be learned from Studio Ghibli's movies and how they incorporate political themes. With the exception of intended period pieces, they understand the balance that is required in fiction to keep the story relevant for future audiences. Ballad & Dagger is a decent book, but also a trapped book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ember

    This novel wowed me with the amount of gorgeous language and imagery seeping out of every page. From the history and culture of San Madrigal to our protagonist Mateo's deep love for music, each moment of characterization and development of Mateo's life and history are written extensively and beautifully. Mateo's relationship with his family - specifically Tia Lucia - and his friends were a treat. Tams and Maza were fun side characters that added a bit of depth and comic relief while also serving This novel wowed me with the amount of gorgeous language and imagery seeping out of every page. From the history and culture of San Madrigal to our protagonist Mateo's deep love for music, each moment of characterization and development of Mateo's life and history are written extensively and beautifully. Mateo's relationship with his family - specifically Tia Lucia - and his friends were a treat. Tams and Maza were fun side characters that added a bit of depth and comic relief while also serving as their own interesting side story. Juggling various adult characters was a bit tedious at times but it became clearer who was on whose side as the story progressed. Being a lifelong music nerd, the way Mateo connects to his piano playing was a stunning inclusion to this book. Reading the way his power translates itself in his brain through different types of music from his cultural background was phenomenal. My qualms lie in the rushed romance aspect of the book and Chela's overall lack of development. While she shares the cover with Mateo and hold equal plot importance, I feel that she as a person remains incredibly understated to the reader, and we don't know much about her aside from her connection to Mateo and how her actions influenced the plot. She felt like less of her own character and more like a means to an end, which disappointed me. I wasn't expecting this book to tackle themes of diaspora, colonialism, and colorism as deeply as it did, and I was pleasantly surprised at how nothing was held back. The dark and cruel histories of how many of our present-day cultures came to be is the backbone of this book's plot and I was astounded at how it merged so well with the fantastical elements. Ballad and Dagger was a fantastic and far worthwhile read, and I'll be eagerly anticipating the sequel, although I feel that this book can also easily stand alone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Flybyreader

    Con una cosa el mundo empieza, Con una casa se acaba. With one thing the world begins; With one thing the world ends. Ballad&Dagger is the first novel of Outlow Saints duology and the author seems to have planned everything long before the it was published. The book opens with Jack Riordan’s introduction, which is a huge thing for a contemporary fantasy novel and it got my hopes really up and wild. The story combines different cultures, folktales, legends and mesh them into a one hell of a fantasy f Con una cosa el mundo empieza, Con una casa se acaba. With one thing the world begins; With one thing the world ends. Ballad&Dagger is the first novel of Outlow Saints duology and the author seems to have planned everything long before the it was published. The book opens with Jack Riordan’s introduction, which is a huge thing for a contemporary fantasy novel and it got my hopes really up and wild. The story combines different cultures, folktales, legends and mesh them into a one hell of a fantasy fiction filled with monstrous action. I loved the amiable characters, story development, whip-smart conversations and Spanish language meshed into dialogs. The minority cultures like Ladino and Sefaradis intermingle with the brand new San Madrigalenos and enrich the whole book with ethnic vibes. San Madrigal is the Atlantis of this story, a sunken island whose inhabitants now reside in Brooklyn as a diaspora trying to hold onto their cultural heritage. Galerano society is a very spiritual community with their own gods, myths and ghosts waiting to spring into life. As our protagonist Mateo Matisse discovers the secrets of their past and the special powers bestowed upon him, he and his friends embark on an adventure of a lifetime, raising the home island from where it is lost. I really enjoyed this aesthetically designed fantasy universe, enchanting made-up culture and mythical story. I will definitely read the sequel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    The Rick Riordan series goes YA with this deliciously wonderful fantasy set on an island I wish existed, right off Brooklyn. The book gets off to a slow start, as Older builds both an intricate and fascinating world (Santeria, Jewish myths, pirates!) and develops the characters through Mateo, a shy music nerd who is used to nobody noticing him. he likes it that way. We meet a richly diverse set of characters both young and old as danger threatens the balance of the island, which has been sunk and The Rick Riordan series goes YA with this deliciously wonderful fantasy set on an island I wish existed, right off Brooklyn. The book gets off to a slow start, as Older builds both an intricate and fascinating world (Santeria, Jewish myths, pirates!) and develops the characters through Mateo, a shy music nerd who is used to nobody noticing him. he likes it that way. We meet a richly diverse set of characters both young and old as danger threatens the balance of the island, which has been sunk and needs raising . . . Okay, I just deleted five paragraphs of basically spoilers as I attempted to untangle the complexities of plot and character. I think it's far more fun for the reader to learn San Madrigal's history and rhythms as the pages turn. Things I appreciated? the gradual rise in stakes and tension to a truly stunning climax. Also, I loved, loved, loved the way Mateo was written, seeing the world in musical terms. I also loved how the Spanglish infusing the narrative adds its own rhythms to the language. I look forward to more in Older's series, as well as more YA entries in the RR wider series. It's off to a terrific start. Copy provided by NetGalley

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nfeldbaum

    Daniel José Older’s worldbuilding in Ballad and Dagger is phenomenal. The way the he fleshed out the intricacies of the history, culture, and politics of Little Madrigal and San Madrigal was just exceptionally done. I loved how this book dealt with lies and legacy and history, and everything that means to the present day. However, the first half of the book failed to keep my interest; I found it quite slow and hard to get through. The middle picked up a bit, and the end kept me spellbound, but if Daniel José Older’s worldbuilding in Ballad and Dagger is phenomenal. The way the he fleshed out the intricacies of the history, culture, and politics of Little Madrigal and San Madrigal was just exceptionally done. I loved how this book dealt with lies and legacy and history, and everything that means to the present day. However, the first half of the book failed to keep my interest; I found it quite slow and hard to get through. The middle picked up a bit, and the end kept me spellbound, but if I wasn’t planning on reviewing the novel, I likely would have put it down before reaching the middle. 3.5 stars I received an Advance Readers Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Perez

    A YA fantasy with a Cuban MC. Everything I needed in my childhood!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kaylee

    3.5 stars "What if the dream is what's killing you?" "If you take poison for long enough, it'll safe your life." I had mixed feelings with this one. We had a pretty weak start where pretty much nothing happened and we had a lot of info dumping and politics for the first 2/3rds of the book but the last 1/3rd and the ending itself were really strong. I just wish the whole book was like that. I think my biggest problem with this was the writing. At times it could be really beautiful and poetic, and t 3.5 stars "What if the dream is what's killing you?" "If you take poison for long enough, it'll safe your life." I had mixed feelings with this one. We had a pretty weak start where pretty much nothing happened and we had a lot of info dumping and politics for the first 2/3rds of the book but the last 1/3rd and the ending itself were really strong. I just wish the whole book was like that. I think my biggest problem with this was the writing. At times it could be really beautiful and poetic, and then at other times it was really cheesy and cringy. And yes, I understand that the writing is supposed to reflect the thoughts and feelings of our 16 year old narrator, buuuut it was just a lot and I didn't really like it. I felt like Ballad and Dagger reminded me a lot of In the Heights and the main character, Mateo, reminded me of an older Miguel from Coco. "Listen to the world. To your own heart. Your spirit. Your song." I loved all the characters and the whole magic system and world was really cool. I enjoyed the idea of all the different spirits and ancestors and the ending really blew my mind. I really hope we get to see more of the magic and the other saints in the second book and that those ideas really get expanded upon. "We laugh because it's all we know how to do, and because somehow that's the only response that makes sense in such a mad world." Despite the fact that I didn't love this, I will definitely be reading the sequel because at this point I am invested and want to see what happens.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Drew's ambitious reading

    This was so good! Four out of five stars! RTC soon!(:

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    *An ARC was provided by NetGalley and Rick Riordan Presents in exchange for an honest review* Have you ever heard the story of the missing island San Madrigal? No? Well, then. Do I have the book for you. In a corner of New York City called Little Madrigal, the orphaned people of this island live and struggle to keep their island's culture alive. Insert magic, monsters, reincarnated saints, and some good old fashioned hijinks, and you've got an idea of what Ballad and Dagger is all about. With all th *An ARC was provided by NetGalley and Rick Riordan Presents in exchange for an honest review* Have you ever heard the story of the missing island San Madrigal? No? Well, then. Do I have the book for you. In a corner of New York City called Little Madrigal, the orphaned people of this island live and struggle to keep their island's culture alive. Insert magic, monsters, reincarnated saints, and some good old fashioned hijinks, and you've got an idea of what Ballad and Dagger is all about. With all the tropes and magic we love from Rick Riordan Presents (but make it YA), and a whimsical writing style all its own, Ballad and Dagger is the perfect fantasy novel to disappear into for a afternoon. You'll come out of it with the taste of adobo and magic on your tongue, I promise. pre-read review YA (with Cuban rep) published by Uncle Rick. I didn’t know how badly I needed this until I saw it

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rose Liz

    RRP HAS GONE YA, I REPEAT RRP HAS GONE YA !1! screw my wedding and the birth of my first child, this is the happiest day of my life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    T.J. Burns

    omg-omg-omg! This is what it's all about! This is why I read fiction! Ballad & Dagger was more than just a wild ride -- I mean, yes, it was a wild ride -- an exciting adventure, pure adventurous excitement -- but it was much, much more... A coming of age story with a budding romance; a complex, creative, new mythology; a mysterious, suspenseful plot, complete with backstory and mystical revelations; a colorful, diverse, an interesting supporting cast of characters; music, rhythm, clever dialogue omg-omg-omg! This is what it's all about! This is why I read fiction! Ballad & Dagger was more than just a wild ride -- I mean, yes, it was a wild ride -- an exciting adventure, pure adventurous excitement -- but it was much, much more... A coming of age story with a budding romance; a complex, creative, new mythology; a mysterious, suspenseful plot, complete with backstory and mystical revelations; a colorful, diverse, an interesting supporting cast of characters; music, rhythm, clever dialogue... the whole package. I could have done without the teaser at the end -- If you thought for one minute, Daniel, that I would need a teaser to entice me to read the sequel, you were deadly wrong. I'm going to read the sequel the second I can get my grubby little hands on it. I want it! I need it! How far along are you, Daniel? You'd better get to it. Tick tick... :) So, if you haven't figured it out yet, I loved Ballad & Dagger! It was refreshingly original, fun, exciting, and captivating from beginning to end! I received a copy of this book from Disney Publishing Worldwide in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Housman Confessions of a YA Reader

    RTC for blog. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my earc.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    3.5 stars. After witnessing the murder of a member of his favourite band by his classmate Chela, a shocked Matteo is doubly shocked to discover he has the ability to heal people. Matteo has never been particularly interested in the religious and magical side of his San Madrigal culture, refusing to hear what his Tia or his best friend Tams have been telling him for years about their own interests and beliefs. Once Matteo’s eyes are opened, he becomes aware of two camps of beliefs amongst the forme 3.5 stars. After witnessing the murder of a member of his favourite band by his classmate Chela, a shocked Matteo is doubly shocked to discover he has the ability to heal people. Matteo has never been particularly interested in the religious and magical side of his San Madrigal culture, refusing to hear what his Tia or his best friend Tams have been telling him for years about their own interests and beliefs. Once Matteo’s eyes are opened, he becomes aware of two camps of beliefs amongst the former San Madrigal pirates/Brooklynites regarding the fate of their many years-submerged island: some want to leave it where it is, and others want to raise it up out of the ocean, where it’s been since a terrible storm and flood years earlier. Daniel Jose Older is hands down one of my favourite authors--he writes a book, I read it. I love his many different worlds, and have particularly loved his fantasies set in New York City, where Older's characters are put into difficult situations dealing with heritage, race, history, familial expectations, and magic. In this new series, he creates a world in which the (made up) island of San Madrigal disappeared under the ocean, and the former pirates and their families inhabiting the island decamped to New York City. Now, years later, there's a movement within these immigrant and displaced people to raise their home out of the water. Matteo and Chela are thrown right into the middle of this community-wide discussion, because of their magical abilities. There are lots of questions raised by characters about the costs of the raising, many of which require using terrible powers, sacrifices, and violence. There are also lies exposed, and discoveries about the real history of the pirates with the wider world. This book is fun. Matteo and Chela are interesting, though Chela's character needed more fleshing out as I didn't always understand her motivations or actions. I loved watching Matteo's journey through the book, as he confronts his own biases and those within his community. He's a bit awkward and goofy, and I loved how music was so woven into the way he used his new power. I also really liked how Matteo struggles to integrate his magical self with his existing perception of himself, much as Chela also has to, all while the two also have to deal with their attraction for each other. The story is rich in detail and colour, and my only problem with this book is that I need to wait for a year for the next book. Thank you to Netgalley and to Disney Publishing Worldwide and Rick Riordan Presents for this ARC in exchange for my review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    4 solid stars I believe this is the first YA novel in the Riordan Presents imprint, and it's definitely young adult, partly because there is a lot more violence than the middle books I've read in the same group, but also because the reading level is higher. The book actually has a slow start and it takes a little bit of persistence to keep going. However, despite the slow start, the writing was really lyrical and included a fair bit of Spanish, whose meaning was usually translated, or you could f 4 solid stars I believe this is the first YA novel in the Riordan Presents imprint, and it's definitely young adult, partly because there is a lot more violence than the middle books I've read in the same group, but also because the reading level is higher. The book actually has a slow start and it takes a little bit of persistence to keep going. However, despite the slow start, the writing was really lyrical and included a fair bit of Spanish, whose meaning was usually translated, or you could figure it out from context. But it was the music that really grabbed hold of me. I listened to this book while reading along and the narrator was perfect. As he described the musical passages, I could feel the rhythms and almost hear the sounds he was describing. The story really opened up for me in the second half as the action built up and Mateo ran from one thing to another trying to figure out who he could trust (the answer--no one!). Those who prefer action books may need to push themselves through the first half, but I found the first half to be very important because it's where the author told us all about the beautiful island in the Caribbean that was swallowed up by the sea. I absolutely loved the idea of this island as a safe haven for Sefaradim, Santeros, Pirates, Indigenous people, dispossessed European Jews, and freed West African slaves. The mixture of religion, culture, and mythology from all these sources was very well thought out and it makes me want to keep on reading further in the series. Perhaps this mythology was completely made up, but if so, the author did a fantastic job creating something that seemed so realistic and possible. I really want to walk through Brooklyn and visit the neighborhood of San Madrigal! I mentioned the music earlier and Mateo is a healer, but he is a prodigy musician first and the way the author incorporated the music into his character as well as into this story was genius. I am definitely looking forward to future books in this series. I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    All 16-year-old Mateo Matisse wants is to be able to make his music, be heard and not seen, and maybe someday play backup for his musical idol, Gerval. But events in his Brooklyn neighborhood of Little Madrigal don’t make that dream easy. Little Madrigal houses most of the people remaining from the free Caribbean island nation of San Madrigal after it sank into the sea fifteen years ago. Those citizens — pirates, Santeros, and Sefaradim — rule their own little corner of the world, celebrate thei All 16-year-old Mateo Matisse wants is to be able to make his music, be heard and not seen, and maybe someday play backup for his musical idol, Gerval. But events in his Brooklyn neighborhood of Little Madrigal don’t make that dream easy. Little Madrigal houses most of the people remaining from the free Caribbean island nation of San Madrigal after it sank into the sea fifteen years ago. Those citizens — pirates, Santeros, and Sefaradim — rule their own little corner of the world, celebrate their traditions, and squabble over politics. For years, Mateo has been like a tourist in his own community, traveling with his doctor parents and only occasionally touching in with Little Madrigal. But after living for a stretch with his aunt Lucia in Brooklyn, he finds he’s more fundamentally connected to Little Madrigal than he expected — and so is his crush, Chela Hidalgo, the rabbi’s daughter. During a celebration, Mateo learns that he is an initiated child of the god Galanika, destined to channel the spirit’s healing power. Moreover, along with the initiates of the other two island spirits, he’s supposed to help bring back the lost island. Mateo resists the role that’s been thrust upon him. But unexpected violence and political infighting drag him into the fray. Working together with Chela and his best friend Tams, Mateo uncovers San Madrigal’s buried history, in the process changing his views about their community and his own place in it. In Ballad and Dagger, Older explores themes of diaspora and colonialism, while still keeping things grounded in a teen reality of evolving identities, crushes, and insecurities. This is world-building at its best, making for a fun, myth-based urban fantasy with a kick. Can’t wait for the sequel!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rae Krosky

    Mateo Matisse just wanted to play his music for the world. Then, he is told that he is Galanika, the healer god. And that the other two gods were also "reincarnated" into two others in the community, that he must find in order to bring back their island home of San Madrigal, which sunk beneath the waves 15 years ago, forcing the hidden community to be relocated to Brooklyn. He is told to trust no one, although it seems that everyone shares the same goal, returning home. However, Mateo witnesses Mateo Matisse just wanted to play his music for the world. Then, he is told that he is Galanika, the healer god. And that the other two gods were also "reincarnated" into two others in the community, that he must find in order to bring back their island home of San Madrigal, which sunk beneath the waves 15 years ago, forcing the hidden community to be relocated to Brooklyn. He is told to trust no one, although it seems that everyone shares the same goal, returning home. However, Mateo witnesses a murder and monsters begin to threaten the community. Infighting breaks out and Mateo has to stop a great evil from surfacing and destroying the world. All in a good days work, right? Some absolutely stunning world building and a fascinating mixture of mythology, history, and fiction. However, I felt that this book suffered a lot from telling, but not showing. Instead of showing us the culture generated from the mixing of Santero, pirate, and Sephardim the author just stated it. The storyline started out very slow and only sped up right at the end, which isn't necessarily bad, just not by favorite. And, I must bring up Farts the dog, who I felt was a bit of a Chekhov's Gun. How to you introduce a farting chihuahua and not have it play any role in the story? A bit odd. He developed the best friend character well, but she only showed up when it was convenient for the storyline and it felt that she mainly existed to help push Mateo in the right direction. However, this didn't make her falling for twins any less amusing or her personality any less fun. Though, it did seem like the author was putting the twins on opposite sides of the conflict, but he didn't quite see that storyline all the way through. Maybe it will appear in the sequel. If you do not understand Spanish, the book loses a lot of additional meaning and depth, but is still entirely understandable. All in all, it was an incredible story, filled with diverse characters, romantic subplots, and a fascinating discussion of the long history of colonization and exploitation in the Caribbean. Thank you to Netgalley for this title in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    roseinkedpages

    Rick Riordan Imprint’s first YA series—includes poc rep and a fun story...very exciting!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara Lawson

    I can honestly say I've never read a book quite like this one. It merges cultures and traditions and myth resulting in something entirely new. But I shouldn't start there. This story begins with a legend. An island, San Madrigal, sank into the sea and those inhabitants that survived the sinking had to flee and resettle on the mainland. In Brooklyn, New York. But the island was special, secret. It had been home to pirates, Sephardic Jews, and Santeros, a place to escape persecution and come togeth I can honestly say I've never read a book quite like this one. It merges cultures and traditions and myth resulting in something entirely new. But I shouldn't start there. This story begins with a legend. An island, San Madrigal, sank into the sea and those inhabitants that survived the sinking had to flee and resettle on the mainland. In Brooklyn, New York. But the island was special, secret. It had been home to pirates, Sephardic Jews, and Santeros, a place to escape persecution and come together as a very diverse people. And the community of Little Madrigal longs to return to their ancestral home, making them turn to an ancient prophecy. Sixteen-year-old Mateo just wants to play his music and be noticed by Gerval, the local rock star. But almost overnight he witnesses a murder, sees a shimmering being, experiences an awakening of tremendous powers, gets pulled into a political struggle, and is tasked with unearthing an ancient mystery. And the action doesn't stop. Poor boy never asked for any of this, and I feel for him when he just wants to ignore it all and play the piano. Occasionally, he does still get to. I loved seeing so much diversity in the story. Many of the characters fluctuated between speaking Spanish and English, often multiple times in the same sentence. Others practiced Sephardic traditions. Those of pirate descent were still pirates, though in a slightly more modern sense (they did a little more than bury gold). Many of the inhabitants believed in spirits of their ancestors and at several points in the story, we get to see the ghosts talking to them as well. And despite the diversity, the goal of the community had always been to work together. And Mateo learns the value of unity in the midst of all the secrets and lies. Another part of the story that fascinated me was how politicized everything was. Everything had spin. Everyone was trying to win others over to their side. Everyone was leaving out part of the story. In particular, they wanted to raise an island, but there was little mention of what the cost would be. Teenagers today face the same challenges. Not raising an island, of course, but finding the truth in the midst of the spin and determining with whom their allegiance lies. It was a strange and wonderful and fast paced adventure. I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Shepard

    “We stand side by side, arm in arm, broken and confused and wary but very much alive, and ready, ever ready, for all that lies ahead.” Mateo’s whole life is music. He lives with his aunts (one more ghostly than the other) in a small community in Brooklyn where their displaced island nation settled 15 years prior. However, Mateo’s life becomes so much more when an ancient evil emerges in his community and powers he never knew he had come to light. As the first YA title for the Rick Riordan Presents “We stand side by side, arm in arm, broken and confused and wary but very much alive, and ready, ever ready, for all that lies ahead.” Mateo’s whole life is music. He lives with his aunts (one more ghostly than the other) in a small community in Brooklyn where their displaced island nation settled 15 years prior. However, Mateo’s life becomes so much more when an ancient evil emerges in his community and powers he never knew he had come to light. As the first YA title for the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, I had high expectations for Ballad & Dagger. It completely exceeded those. The characters all started at pretty low places and were able to come into their own, both together and apart. The battle scenes were written so vividly and made you feel like you were really there, watching it all play out. I also thought the author did an absolutely beautiful job intertwining so many cultures and communities. I took a little bit longer than normal to really get into this book, but I think that was a me problem. Either way, it kept me reading and I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it. I can’t wait to see where Chela and Mateo’s journey goes next!! CW: death, death of parent, murder, violence, blood, colonization, panic attacks/disorders, racism, vomit

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Dang

    This is a story about two teens who discover their powers and each other. Filled with music and magic set in an urban fantasy, this story revolves around a political battle within a diaspora community. The story has mystery, romance, magic, and heart. It follows Mateo Matisse a high school junior and a piano prodigy who just wants to get the attention of a music legend. On the night of the Grand Fete, a party that celebrates the blended culture of pirates,Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews his l This is a story about two teens who discover their powers and each other. Filled with music and magic set in an urban fantasy, this story revolves around a political battle within a diaspora community. The story has mystery, romance, magic, and heart. It follows Mateo Matisse a high school junior and a piano prodigy who just wants to get the attention of a music legend. On the night of the Grand Fete, a party that celebrates the blended culture of pirates,Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews his life is turned upside down when he witnesses the murder of someone he knows. He soon discovers that he is Galanika, the healer god and that two other gods were also “reinacrnated” into two other people in his community that he must find in order to bring back their island home of San Madrigal. The story started off slow for me and political.. and not much happens until the last 30% of the book which picks up but it just wasn’t for me sadly. Definitely give it a go though it’s got a lot of fun magic and history and culture in it! *Thanks Netgalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide, Rick Riordan Presents for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Montrez

    A fine balance between magical realism and urban fantasy, Ballad and Dagger is ideal for readers looking for diverse representation, and colorful, immersive world building. The narration was lyrical and conversational, and it often felt like the main character was talking directly to me. While the book reels you into the story, making you feel part of the community, I think this was more plot driven than character driven. The setting and the story overshadowed the characters a little . But when t A fine balance between magical realism and urban fantasy, Ballad and Dagger is ideal for readers looking for diverse representation, and colorful, immersive world building. The narration was lyrical and conversational, and it often felt like the main character was talking directly to me. While the book reels you into the story, making you feel part of the community, I think this was more plot driven than character driven. The setting and the story overshadowed the characters a little . But when the world building and premise is as fantastical and enchanting as it is in this read, it’s still chef’s kiss. The way it’s written, you’ll feel like you’re not just reading but you’re part of the actual adventure too. I look forward to seeing where the next book leads. Thank you NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide who provided a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and ideas expressed are my own

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah {The Clever Reader}

    This book was filled with so much adventure. I loved learning about the different cultures of San Madrigal in this high intense YA fantasy! I thought the characters were so unique and exciting to get to know. I enjoyed the friendships and family ties throughout the story. The writing was well done. You can really tell it was written by a well seasoned author and it made the story that much more immersive. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced highly intense ride that blends This book was filled with so much adventure. I loved learning about the different cultures of San Madrigal in this high intense YA fantasy! I thought the characters were so unique and exciting to get to know. I enjoyed the friendships and family ties throughout the story. The writing was well done. You can really tell it was written by a well seasoned author and it made the story that much more immersive. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced highly intense ride that blends culture, mythology, and music together beautifully. I can’t wait for book two and definitely plan to pick up more of Daniel’s books to enjoy! https://thecleverreader.wordpress.com...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette

    An amazing coming-of-age fantasy with music and spirits! Mateo's love of music and how it was interwoven into his new powers came across beautifully. I enjoyed the friendship he shared with Tams and the love he shared with his Tia Lucia. Chela and her blades quickly became my favorite character. The history, culture, and lies surrounding the sunken island of San Madrigal and its diaspora were intriguing aspects that kept me guessing. Thanks, NetGalley, Rick Riordan Presents, and Disney-Hyperion! An amazing coming-of-age fantasy with music and spirits! Mateo's love of music and how it was interwoven into his new powers came across beautifully. I enjoyed the friendship he shared with Tams and the love he shared with his Tia Lucia. Chela and her blades quickly became my favorite character. The history, culture, and lies surrounding the sunken island of San Madrigal and its diaspora were intriguing aspects that kept me guessing. Thanks, NetGalley, Rick Riordan Presents, and Disney-Hyperion!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Fair warning: I desperately need to reread this book to make sense of it. Mateo was born after the Fall but like all of his fellow islanders grew up mourning the loss of San Madrigal, their magically sunken island. The islanders are a complex mixture of Sefaradim, Santeros and Pirates. They carve out an area of Brooklyn that is theirs alone. Mateo is a musician to his core. English and feelings are not his thing at all. This is a duology with the second and final part out next spring. Chela is s Fair warning: I desperately need to reread this book to make sense of it. Mateo was born after the Fall but like all of his fellow islanders grew up mourning the loss of San Madrigal, their magically sunken island. The islanders are a complex mixture of Sefaradim, Santeros and Pirates. They carve out an area of Brooklyn that is theirs alone. Mateo is a musician to his core. English and feelings are not his thing at all. This is a duology with the second and final part out next spring. Chela is someone he loves from afar but it seems she is much more as well, as Mateo finds out. Some of this is poetic and lyrical. Other parts are stumbling and almost annoying. This review might get entirely rewritten after rereading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Matherne

    Maybe my lack of connection with this book is due to coming off the ride that was Spinning Silver, but the first several pages feeling like neverending exposition (or info dumping) is not working for me. I may return to this one later. Maybe my lack of connection with this book is due to coming off the ride that was Spinning Silver, but the first several pages feeling like neverending exposition (or info dumping) is not working for me. I may return to this one later.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Rae

    Best YA I’ve read in quite a long time. He wrote characters you can care about and made an amazing, original story to go with them. Highly recommend

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